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Y LIFE ON THE PLAINS 



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PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH INDIANS. 



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BY 



GEN. G. A. CUSTER, U. S. A. 



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NEW^ YORK: 
SHELDON A-ISTD COMF-A^NY, 

677 BROADWAY, AND 214 & 216 MERCER STREET, 

Under Grand Centrai. Hotel. 

1874. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874, by 

SHELDON & Co.. 

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 



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Electrotyped by Siiitu & McDougal, 83 Beekman St.,N. Y. 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 



AS a fitting introduction to some of the personal incidents and sketches 
which I shall hereafter jn'esent to the readers of "The Galaxy," a 
brief description of the country in which these events ti*ansj)ired may not be 
deemed inapprojiriate. 

It is but a few years ago that every schoolboy, supposed to possess the rudi- 
ments of a knowledge of the geography of the United States, could give the 
boundaries and a general description of the " Great American Desert." As to 
the boundai-y the knowledge seemed to be quite explicit : on the north bounded 
by the Upper ]\Iissouri, on the east by the Lower Missoiu-i and Mississippi, on 
the south by Texas, and on the west by the Rocky Mountains. The boundaries 
on the northwest and south remained undisturbed, while on the east civiliza- 
tion, propelled and directed by Yankee enterprise, adopted the motto, " West- 
ward the star of empire takes its way." Countless throngs of emigrants 
crossed the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, selecting homes in the rich and 
fertile territories lying beyond. Each year this tide of emigi'ation, strength- 
ened and increased by the flow from foreign shores, advanced toward the set- 
ting sun, slowly but surely narrowing the preconceived limits of the " Great 
American Desert," and correspondingly enlarging the limits of civilization. 
At last the googi^ajihical myth was dispelled. It was gradually discerned that 
the Great American Desert did not exist, that it had no abiding place, but that 
within its supposed limits, and instead of what had been regarded as a sterile 
and unfruitful tract of land, incapable of sustaining either man or beast, there 
existed the fairest and richest portion of the national domain, blessed with a 
climate pure, bracing, and healthful, while its undeveloped soil rivalled if it 
did not surpass the most productive portions of the Eastern, Middle, or Southern 
States. 

Discarding the name " Great American Desert," this immense tract of coun- 
try, with its eastern boundary moved back by civilization to a distance of nearly 
three hundred miles west of the Missouri river, is now known as " The Plains," 
and by this more appropi-iate title it shall be called when reference to it is 
necessary. The Indian tribes which have cai;sed the Government most anxiety 
and whose dei)redations have been most serious against our frontier settle- 
ments and prominent lines of travel across the Plains, infest that portion of the 
Plains bounded on the north by the valley of the Platte river and its tributa- 
ries, on the east by a line running north and south between the 97th and 98th 
meridians, on the south by the valley of the Arkansas river, and west by 
the Rocky INIountains — although by treaty stipulations almost every tribe Avith 
which the Government has recently been at war is particulai-ly debai'red from 
entering or occupying any portion of this tract of country. 

Of the many persons whom I have met on tlie Plains as transient visitors from 
the States or from Europe, there are few who have not exjjressed surpi*ise that 
their original ideas concerning the appearance and charactei'istics of the coun- 
try were so far fi'om correct, or that the Plains in imagination, as described in 
books, tourists' letters, or reports of isolated scientific parties, differed so widely 
from the Plains as they actually exist and appear to the eye. Travellers, 
writers of fiction, and journalists have spoken and written a great deal con- 



6 MY LIFE ON TIIE PLAINS. 

eerning this immense territoiy, so unlike in all its qualities and characteristics 
to the settled and cultivated portion of the United States ; but to a person familiar 
■with the country the conclusion is forced, upon reading these published descrip- 
tions, either that the writei's never visited but a limited ijoi'tion of the countiy 
they aim to describe, or, as is most commonly the case at the present day, that the 
journey was made in a stage-coach or Pullman car, half of the distance trav- 
elled in the night time, and but occasional glimpses taken during the day. A 
journey b}' rail across the Plains is at best but ill adapted to a thorough or sat- 
isfactoiy examination of the general character of the country, for the reason 
that in selecting the route for railroads the valley of some stream is, if practica- 
ble, usually cliosen to contain the road-bed. The valley being considerably 
lower than the adjacent countr}% the view of the tourist is correspondingly lim- 
ited. ]\Ioreov<'r, the vastness and varied character of this immense tract could 
not fairlj' be determined or judged of by a flying ti-iji across one portion of it. 
One would scarcely expect an accurate opinion to be formed of the swamps of 
Florida from a railroad journey from New York to Niagara. 

After indulging in criticisms on the written descriptions of the Plains, I 
might reasonably be expected to enter into what I conceive a correct descrip- 
tion, but I forbear. Beyond a general outline embracing some of the ijeculiar- 
ities of this slightly known j^ortion of our country, the limits and character of 
these sketches of Western life will not permit me to go. 

The idea entertained by the greater number of people regarding the ap- 
pearance of the Plains, while it is verj'^ incorrect so fjir as the latter are con- 
cerned, is quite accurate and truthful if applied to the prairies of the Western 
States. It is probable, too, that romance writers, and even tourists at am ear- 
lier day, mistook the prairies for the Plains, and in describing one imagined 
they were describing the other; Avhereas the two have little in common to the 
eye of the beholder, save the general absence of ti-ees. 

In proceeding from the Missouri river to the base of the llocky ^lountains, the 
ascent, although gradual, is quite rapid. For example, at Fort Riley, Kansas, 
the bed of the Kansas river is upward of 1,000 feet above the level of the sea, 
while Fort Hays, at a distance of nearly 150 miles further west, is about 1,500 
feet above the level of the sea. Stalling from almost any point near the cen- 
tral ijortion of the Plains, and moving in any direction, one seems to encounter 
a series of undulations ata more or less remote distance fi'om each other, but 
constantly in view. Comparing the surfVice of the country to that of the ocean, 
a comparison often indulged in by those who have seen both, it does not re- 
quii'e a very gi-eat stretch of the imagination, when vieAving this boundless 
ocean of beautiful living verdure, to picture these successive undulations as gi- 
gjintic waves, not Avildly chasing each other to or from the shore, but standing 
sihmt and immovable, and by their silent immobility adding to the imi^rcs- 
sive grandeur of the scene. These undulations, varying in height from fifty to 
live hundred feet, are sometimes formed of a light sandy soil, but often of dif- 
ferent varieties of rock, producing at a distance the most picturesque effect. 
The constant recurrence of these waves, if they may be so termed, is quite puz- 
zling to the inexperienced plainsman. He imagines, and very naturally too, 
juilging from appearances, that when he ascends to the crest he can overlook 
all the surrounding country. After a wearj^ walk or ride of perhaps several 
miles, which appeared at starting not more than one or two, he finds him- 
self at the desired point, but discovers that directly beyond, in the direction 
he desires to go, rises a second wave, but slightly higher than the first, and 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 7 

from the crest of which he must certainly be able to scan the country as far as 
the eye can reach. Thither he pursues his course, and after a ride of from five 
to ten miles, although the distance did not seem half so great before starting, 
he finds himself on the crest, or, as it is invariably termed, the "divide," but 
again only to discover that another and apparently a higher divide rises in his 
front, and at about tlie same distance. Hundreds, yes, thousands of miles may 
be journeyed over, and this same effect witnessed every few hours. 

As you proceed toward the west from the Missouri, the size of the trees di- 
minishes as well as the number of kinds. As you penetrate the borders of 
the Indian country, leaving civilization behind you, the siglit of forests is no 
longer enjoyed, the only trees to be seen being scattered along the banks of the 
streams, these becoming smaller and more rare, finally disappearing altogether 
and giving place to a few scattei'ing willows and osiers. The greater portion of 
the Plains may be said to be without timber of any kind. As to the cause of 
this absence scientific men disagree, some claiming that the high winds which 
prevail in xmobstructed force prevent the gi'owth and existence of not only 
trees but even the taller grasses. This theory is well supported by facts, as, 
unlike tlie Western prairies, where the grass often attains a height sufiicient to 
conceal a man on horseback, the Plains are covered by a gi'ass Avhich rarely, 
and only imder favorable circumstances, exceeds three inches in height. An- 
other theory, also somewhat plausible, is that the entire Plains were at one 
time covered with timber more or less dense, but this timber, owing to various 
causes, was destroyed, and has since been prevented from gi'owing or spread- 
ing over the Plains by the annual fires which the Indians regularly create, and 
wliich sweep over the entire country. These fires are built by the Indians in 
the fall to burn the dried gi'ass and hasten the gTowth of the pasturage in the 
early spring. Favoring the theory that the Plains were at one time covered 
with forests, is the fact that entire trunks of large trees have been found in a 
state of petrifaction on elevated portions of the country, and far removed from 
streauis of water. 

Wliile dwarfed specimens of almost all varieties of trees ai'e found fringing 
the banks of some of the streams, the prevailing species are cottonwood and 
poplar trees (Populus monilifera and Poptdus attgulosa). Intermingled with 
these are found clumps of osiers (Salix longifolia). In almost any other por- 
tion of the country the cottonwood would be the least desirable of trees ; but to 
tlie Indian, and, in many instances which have fallen under my observation, 
to our troops, the cottonwood has performed a service for which no other tree 
has been found its equal, and that is as forage for horses and mules during the 
winter season, when the snow prevents even dried grass from being obtainable. 
During the winter campaign of 1868-'69 against the hostile ti'ibes south of the 
Arkansas, it not unfrequently happened that my command while in pm'suit of 
Indians exiiausted its supply of forage, and the horses and mules Avere sub- 
sisted upon the young bark of the cottonwood tree. In routing the Indians 
from their winter villages, we invariably discovered them located upon that 
point of the stream promising the gi'eatest supply of cottonwood bark, while 
the stream in the vicinity of the village was completely shorn of its supply of 
timber, and the village itself was strewn with the white branches of the cotton- 
wood entirely stripped of their bark. It was somewhat amusing to observe an 
Indian pony feeding on cottonwood bark. The limb being usually cut into 
pieces about four feet in length and thrown upon the ground, the pony, accus- 
tomed to this kind of " long forage," would place one fore foot on the limb in 



8 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

the same maner as a dog secures a bone, and gnaAV the bai'k from it. Al- 
though not affording anything like the amount of nutriment which either hay 
or gi'ain does, yet our liorses invariably preferred the bark to either, probably 
on account of its freshness. 

The herbage to be found on the principal portion of the Plains is usually 
sparse and stunted in its growth. Along the banks of the streams and in the 
bottom lands there gi'ows generally in rich abundance a species of grass often 
found in the States east of the Mississippi ; but on the uplands is produced what 
is there known as the "buffalo grass," indigenous and j)eculiar in its character, 
differing in form and substance from all other grasses. The blade under 
favorable circumstances reaches a gi'owth usually of from three to five inches, 
but instead of being straight, or approximately so, it assumes a curled or wav- 
ing shape, the grass itself becoming densely matted, and giving to the foot, when 
walking upon it, a sensation similar to that produced by stepping upon moss or 
the most costly of velvet carpets. 

Nearly all gi'aminivorous animals inhabiting the Plains, except the elk and 
some species of the deer, prefer the buffalo grass to that of the lowland ; and it 
is probable that even these exceptions would not pi'ove good if it were not for 
the timber on the bottom land, which affords good cover to both the elk and 
the deer. Both are often found in large herds gi'azing upon the uplands, al- 
though the grass is far more luxuriant and plentiful on the lowlands. Our 
domestic animals invarial^ly choose the buffalo gi'ass, and exiDerience demon- 
strates beyond question that it is the most nutritious of all varieties of wild 
grass. 

The favorite range of the buffalo is contained in a belt of country running 
north and south, about two hundred miles wide, and extending from the Platte 
river on the north to the valley of the Upper Canadian on the south. In mi- 
grating, if not grazing or alarmed, the buffixlo invariably moves in single file, 
the column generally being headed by a patriarch of the herd, Avho is not only 
familiar with the topography of the counti-y, but whose prowess " in the field " 
entitles him to become the leader of his herd. He maintains this leadership 
only so long as his strength and courage enable him to remain the successful 
champion in the innumerable contests which he is called upon to maintain. 
The buffalo trails are always objects of interest and inquiry to the sight-seer on 
the Plains. These trails made by the herds in their migrating movements are 
so regular in their construction and course as to well excite curiosity. They 
vary but little from eight to ten inches in width, and are usually from two to 
four inches in depth ; their course is almost as unv.arying as that of the needle, 
running north and south. Of the thousands of buffalo trails which I have seen, 
I recollect none of which the genei-al direction was not north and soutli. This 
may seem somewhat surprising at first thought, but it admits of a simple and 
satisfactoiy explanation. 

The general direction of all streams, large and small, on the Plains, is from 
the west to tlie east, seeking as they do an entrance to the Mississippi. The 
habits of the buffalo incline him to graze and migrate from one stream to an- 
other, moving northward and crossing e.ach in succession as he follows the 
young grass in the spring, and moving southward seeking the milder climate 
and open gi-azing in the fall and winter. Throughout the buffalo country are 
to be seen what are termed " buffalo wallows." The number of these is so 
great as to excite surpi'ise ; a moderate estimate would give from one to three 
to «ach acre of ground throughout this vast tract of country. These wallows 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 9 

are about eight feet in diameter and from six to eighteen inches m dej^th, and 
ars made by the buffalo bulls in the sjiring when challenging a rival to com- 
bat for the favor of the opposite sex. The gi-ound is broken by pawing — if an 
animal \vilh a hoof can be said to paw — and if the challenge is accejited, as it 
usually is, the combat takes place ; after which the one who comes off victori- 
ous remains in possession of the battle-field, and, occupying the " wallow " of 
fresh upturned earth, finds it produces a cooling sensation to his hot and gory 
sides. Sometimes the victory which gives possession of the battle-field and 
drives a hated antagonist away is purchased at a dear price. The carcass of the 
victor is often found in the wallow, where his brief triumph has soon terminated 
fi'om the effects of his wounds. In the eai'ly spring, during the shedding sea- 
son, the buffalo resorts to his " wallow " to aid in removing the old coat. These 
"wallows " have proven of no little benefit to man, as well as to animals other 
than the buffalo. After a heavy rain they become filled with water, the soil 
being of such a compact character as to retain it. It has not unfrequently been 
the case when making long marches that the sti'eams would be found dry, 
while water in abundance could be obtained from the " wallows." True, it was 
not of the best quality, particularly if it had been standing long and the buf- 
falo had patronized the wallows as " summer resorts " ; but on the Plains a 
thirst}' man or beast, far from any streams of water, does not parley long with 
tliese considerations. 

AVherever water is found on the Plains, particularly if it is standing, in- 
numerable gadflies and mosquitoes generally abound. To such an extent do 
these pests to the animal kingdom exist, that to our thinly-coated animals, such 
as the horse and mule, grazing is almost an impossibility, while the buffalo with 
his huge shaggy coat can browse undisturbed. The most sanguinary and de- 
termined of these troublesome insects are the " buffalo flies" ; they move in my- 
riads, and so violent and painful are their assaults ujoon horses that a herd of 
the latter has been known to stampede as the result of an attack from a swarm 
of these flies. 

But here again is furnished what some reasoners would affirm is evidence 
of the " eternal fitness of things." In most localities where these flies are 
found in troublesome numbers, there are also found flocks of starlings, a spe- 
cies of blackbird ; these, more, I presume, to obtain a livelihood than to become 
the defender of the helpless, perch themselves upon the backs of the animals, 
when woe betide the hapless gadfly who ventures near, only to become a choice 
morsel for the starling. In this way I have seen our herds of cavalry horses 
grazing imdisturbed, each horse of the many hundreds having jierched upon 
his back from one to dozens of starlings, standing guard over him while he 
grazed. 

One of the first subjects which addresses itself to the mind of the stranger 
on the Plains, particixlarly if he be of a philosophical or scientific turn of mind, 
is the mirage, which is here observed in all its perfection. Many a weary mile 
of the traveller has been whiled away in endeavors to account for the fitful and 
beautifully changing visions presented by the mirage. Sometimes the distor- 
tions ai'e wonderful, and so natural as to deceive the most experienced eye. 
Upon one occasion I met a young officer who had spent several years on the 
Plains and in the Indian country. He was, on the occasion alluded to, in com- 
mand of a detachment of cavalry in pursuit of a party of Indians who had been 
committing depredations on our frontier. "Wlfile riding at the head of liis com- 
mand he suddenly discovered, as he thought, a party of Indians not more than 



10 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

a mile distant. The latter seemed to be galloping toward him. Tlie atten- 
tion of his men was called to them, and they pronounced them Indians on 
liorseback. The " trot " was sounded, and the column moved forward to the 
attack. The distance between the attacking party and the supposed foe was rnp- 
idly diminishing, the Indians appearing plainer to view each moment. The 
charge Avas about to be sounded, when it was discovered that the supposed 
party of Indians consisted of the decayed carcasses of half a dozen slain buft'a- 
loi's, which number had been magnilied by the mirage, Avhile the peculiar mo- 
tion imparted by the latter had given the appeai-ance of Indians on horseback. 

I have seen a train of government wagons with white canvas covers mov- 
ing through a mirage which, by elevating the wagons to ti'cble their height 
;ind magnifying the size of the covers, presented the appearance of a line of 
large sailing vessels under full sail, while the usual appearance of the mi- 
r.ige gave a correct likeness of an immense lake or sea. Sometimes the mi- 
1 age has been the cause of frightful suffering and death by its deceptive ap- 
pearance. 

Trains of emigrants making their way to California and Oregon have, while 
seeking water to quench their thirst and that of their animals, been induced to 
depart from their course in the endeavor to reach the inviting lake of Avater 
which the mirage displayed before their longing eyes. It is usually repre- 
sented at a distance of from five to ten miles. Sometimes, if the nature of the 
ground is favorable, it is dispelled by advancing toward it; at others it is like 
an ignis fatuus, hovering in sight, but keeping beyond reach. Here and there 
throughout this region are pointed out the gr;ives of those who are said to have 
been led astraj"^ by the mirage until their bodies were famished and they suc- 
cumbed to thirst. 

The routes usually chosen for travel across the Plains may be said to furnish, 
upon an average, water every fifteen miles. In some instances, however, and 
during the hot season of the year, it is necessary in places to go into what is 
termed " a dry camp,"' that is, to encamp where there is no water. In such 
emergencies, with a previous knowledge of the route, it is practicable to trans- 
port from the last camj) a sufficient quantity to satisfy the demands of the peoj^le 
composing the ti-ain, but the dumb brutes must trust to the little moisture 
obtained from the night grazing to quench their thirst. 

The animals inhabiting the Plains resemble in some respects the fashionable 
society of some of our larger cities. During the exti-eme heat of the sumiiier 
they forsake their accustomed haunts and seek a more delightful retreat. For, 
although the Plains are di'ained by streams of all sizes, from the navigable 
river to the humblest of brooks, yet at certain seasons the supply of Avater in 
many of them is of the most uncertain character. The pasturage, from the 
excessive heat, the lack of sufficient moisture, and the withering hot Avinds 
A\-hich sweep across from the south, becomes dried, Avithered, and burnt, and is 
rendered incapable of sustaining life. Then it is that the animals usually 
found on the Plains disappear for a short time, and await the return of a 
milder season. 

Having briefly grouped the prominent features of the central Plains, and as 
some of the incidents connected Avith my service among the Indian tribes oc- 
curred far to the south of the localities already referred to, a hurried reference 
to the country north of Texas, and in which the Wichita mountains ai-e located, 
a fiivoritc resort of some of the tribes, is here made. To describe as one 
would A'iew it in journeying upon horseback over this beautiful and romantic 
country, to picture with the pen those boundless solitude — so silent that their 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. H 

silence alone increases their grandeur — to gather inspiration from nature and 
to attempt to paint the scene as my eye beheld it, is a task before which a much 
readier pen than mine might Avell hesitate. 

It was a beautiful and evcr-changingpanoramawhich at one moment excited 
the beholder's higliest admiration, at the next impressed him Avith speechless 
veneration. Approaching the Wichifci mountains from tlie north, and after 
the eye has perliaps been wearied by the tameness and monotony of the im- 
broken Plains, one is gladdened by the relief which the sight of these pictur- 
esque and peculiarly beautiful mountains affords. 

Here are to be seen all the varied colors which Bierstadt and Chui'ch en- 
deavor to represent in their mountain scenery. A journey across and around 
them on foot and upon horseback will well repay either the tourist or artist. 
The air is jwre and fragi-ant, and as exhilarating as the purest of wine ; the 
climate entrancingly mild; the sky clear, and blue as the most beautiful sap- 
phire, with here and there clouds of rarest loveliness, presenting to the eye 
the riciiest commingling of briglit and varied coloi's; delightful odors are con- 
stnntly being wafted by; while the forests, filled with the mocking bird, the 
colibri, the humming bird, and the thrush, constantly put forth a joyful cliorus, 
aud all combine to fill tlie soul with visions of delight and enhance the perfec- 
tion and glory of the creation. Strong indeed must be that unbelief which can 
here contemplate nature in all her purity and glory, and, unaAved by the sub- 
limity of this closely-connected testimony, question either the Divine origin oi 
purpose of the beautiful firmament. 

Unlike most mountains, the Wichita cannot properly be termed a range or 
chain, but more correctly a collection or group, as many of the highest and 
most beautiful are detached, and stand on a level plain " solitary and alone." 
They are mainly composed of granite, the huge blocks of which exhibit numer- 
ous shades of beautiful colors, crimson, purple, yellow, and gi'een predominat- 
ing. Tliey are conical in shape, and seem to have but little resemblance to 
the soil upon Avhich they are founded. They rise abruptly from a level sur- 
face — so level and unobstructed tliat it would be an easy matter to drive a car- 
riage to any point of the circumference at tlie base ; and yet so steep and broken 
are the sides that it is only here and there that it is possible to ascend them. 
From the foot of almost every mountain pours a stream of limpid water, of 
almost icy coldness. 

If the character given to the Indian by Cooper and other novelists, as Avell 
as by well-meaning but mistaken philanthropists of a later day, were tlie true 
one; if the Indian were the innocent, simj^le-minded being he is represented, 
more the creature of romance than reality, imbued only with a deep veneration 
for the works of nature, freed from the passions and vices which must accom- 
pany a savage nature ; if, in other words, he possessed all the virtues which liis 
admirers and works of fiction ascribe to him, and were free from all the vices 
which those best qualified to judge assign to him, he would be just the character 
to complete the picture wluch is presented by the country embracing the Wi- 
chita mountains. Cooper, to whose wi'itings more than to tliose of any otlier 
autliorare the people speaking the English language indebted for a false and 
ill-judged estimate of the Indian character, might Avell have laid the scenes of 
his fictitious stories in this beautiful and romantic country. 

It is to be regretted that the character of tlie Indian as described in Coop- 
er's interesting novels is not the true one. But as, in emerging fi-om cliildhood 
into the yeai's of a maturer age, we are often compelled to cast aside many of 
our earlier illusions and replace them by beliefs less inviting but more real. 



12 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

so we, as a people, with opportunities enlarged and facilities for obtaining 
knowledge increased, have been forced by a multiplicity of causes to study and 
endeavor to comprehend thoroughly the character of the red man. So inti- 
mately has he become associated with the Government as ward of the nation, 
and so prominent a place among the questions of national jjolicy does the much 
mooted "Indian question " occupy, that it behooves us no longer to studj'this 
problem from works of fiction, but to deal Avith it as it exists in reality. 
Stripped of the beautiful romance with which we have been so long Avilling 
to enveloi? him, transferred from the inviting pages of the novelist to the lo- 
calities Avhero we are comj^elled to meet with him, in his native village, on the 
war path, and when raiding ujDon our frontier settlements and lines of travel, 
the Indian forfeits his claim to the appellation of the " iiohle red man." "We 
see him as he is, and, so far as all knowledge goes, as he ever has been, a 
savage in every sense of the word ; not worse, perhaps, than his white brother 
would be similarly born and bred, but one whose cruel and ferocious nature 
far exceeds that of any wild beast of the desert. That this is true no one who 
has been brought into intimate contact with the wild tribes will deny. Perhaps 
tliere are some who, as members of jieace commissions or as Avandering aji^ents 
of some benevolent society, may have visited these tribes or attended with them 
at councils held for some jxacific purpose, and who, by passing through the vil- 
lages of the Indian while at x>cacc, may imagine their opj)ortunities for judging 
of the Indian nature all that could be desired. But the Indian, while he can 
seldom be accused of indulging in a gi*eat variety of wardrol^e, can be said to 
have a character capable of adapting itself to almost every occasion. He lias 
one character, perhaps his most serviceable one, which he preserves carefully, 
and only airs it when making his appeal to the Government or its agents for 
arms, ammunition, and license to employ them. This character is invariably 
paraded, and often Avith telling effect, Avhen the motive is a peaceful one. 
Prominent chiefs invited to visit "Washington invariaWy don this character, and 
in their " talks " witli the " Great Father " and other less prominent personages 
tliey successfully contrive to exliibit but this one i;)hase. Seeing them under 
these or similar circumstances only, it is not surprising that by many the Indian 
is looked upon as a simple-minded " son of nature," desiring nothing beyond 
tlie privilege of roaming and hunting over the vast unsettled Avilds of the "West, 
inlieriting and asserting but few native rights, and never trespassing n^on the 
rights of others. This view is equally erroneous with that Avhich regards the 
Indian as a creature possessing the human form but divested of all other at- 
tributes of humanity, and Avliose traits of character, habits, modes of life, dis- 
position, and savage customs disqualify him from the exercise of all riglits 
and privileges, even those pertaining to life itself. Taking him as we find him, 
at peace or at Avar, at home or abroad, waiving all prejudices, and laying 
aside all partiality, we will discover in the Indian a subject for thoughtful 
study aad investigation. In him we Avill find the representative of a race 
whose origin is, and promises to be, a subject forever Avrapped in mystery; a 
race incapable of being judged by the rules or laws applicable to any other 
known I'ace of men; one betAveen which and civilization there seems to have 
existed from time immemorial a determined and unceasing warfore — a hostility 
so deep-seated and inbred Avith the Indian character, that in the exceptional 
instances Avhere the modes and habits of civilization have been reluctantly 
adopted, it has been at the sacrifice of power and influence as a tribe, and the 
more serious loss of health, vigor, and courage as individuals. 



IL 



IF the character of the Indian is enveloped in mystery, how much more so is 
his orif^in. From his earUest history to tlie present time learned men 
have striven to unravel this mystery, and to trace the genealogy of the red man 
to its original source. But in spite of all study and the deepest research capable 
of being brought to bear on this subject, it is to-day surrounded by a darkness 
almost as deep and impeneti*able as that which enfolded it centuries ago. Va- 
rious writers of ability have attempted to prove that the Indians came from 
eastern Asia ; others trace them to Africa, others to Phoenicia, while another 
olass believes them to be autochthones. In favor of each of these beliefs strong 
circumstantial evidence can be produced. By closely studying the customs, 
costumes, faith, and religious traditions of the various tribes, a striking homo- 
geneity is seen to exist. At the same time and from the same sources we are 
enabled to discover sotisfactory resemblances between certain superstitions and 
religious rites practised among the Indian tribes and those which prevailed at 
one time among the ancient Persians, the Hebrews, and the Chaldeans. They 
who adhere to tlie belief of disparity of origin may readily adduce ai'guments in 
refutation of an opi^osite theory. The apparent similarity found to exist in the 
customs, dress, and religious rites of different tribes may be partially accounted 
for by their long intercourse under like circumstances, the effect of which would 
necessarily be an assimilation in beliefs and usages to a greater or less de- 
gree. The preponderance of facts inclines strongly in favor of that theory 
which does not ascribe unity of origin to the Indian tribes. Passing down 
the Mississippi to Mexico,Jffl.nd from Mexico to Peru, there once existed an un- 
bi'oken chain of tribes, which, either in a peaceful or warlike manner, main- 
tained a connection and ke^^t up an intercourse with each other. In various 
ways proofs have been discovered that at one time the most northern ti'ibes 
must have held intercourse with the civilized nations of Peru and Mexico. These 
evidences have been seized upon by certain savants to support the theory that 
tlie Indian tribes of North America are descendants of the Aztecs and other kin- 
dred nations of the south — arriving at this conclusion from the fact of an appar- 
ent similarity in history, psychology, traditions, and customs. But by studj'ing 
tlie migrations and tendencies of ancient nations, and making allowance for such 
modifications as climatic influences, intermarriage, contact with civilization, 
and an altered mode of living would necessarily produce upon any branch of 
the human race — ^remembering, too, that in the vast luajority of cases relating 
to our subject we must be guided by tradition rather than history — it is not diffi- 
cult to establish a strong typical likeness between the tribes of American In- 
dians and some of the nations of most remote antiquity. When or in what ex- 
act manner they first reached this continent is a problem diflicult of solution. 
This theory necessarily involves the admission of emigration to this conti- 
nent centuries before the landing of Columbus. Upon this point there is much 
that may be inferred, and uot a little susceptible of strong proof. 

When civilization made its first inroads within the borders of this continent, 
numerous tribes, each powerful in numbers, were found inhabiting it. Each 
tribe had its peculiar customs, whether of war, the chase, or religion. They 



14 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

exliibited some close resemblances as well as widely clifFerent traits of charac- 
ter. That they sprang from different nations ratlier tlian from a single source 
seems highly probable. It is said that wlien the Spaniards conquered Yucatan 
a number of intelligent Indians declared that b}' traditions from their ancestors 
they had learned that their country had been peopled b}' nations coming from 
the east, whom God had delivered from their enemies by opening a road for 
them across the sea. 

Few persons will deny that the existence of America was believed in if not 
positively known centuries before its discovery by Columbus. Even so far 
back as the time of Alexander the Great, a historian named Theopompus, in 
giving a dialogue that took place between Midas and Silenus, credits the latter 
with saying that Europe, Asia, and Africa were only islands, but that a vast fer- 
tile continent existed beyond the sea. Tliis continent was peopled by a race of 
powerful men, and gold and silver were abundant on its surface. Hanno, eight 
hundred years before Christ, made a voyage along the coast of Africa, and 
sailed due west for thirty days. From the account which he afterward wrote 
of his voyage, it is jjrobable that he saw portions of America or some of the 
West India islands. Reference is also made by Homer and Horace to the ex- 
istence of islands att a long distance west of Europe and Africa. Diodo- 
rus speaks of an immense island many days' sail to the west of Africa; im- 
mense rivers flowed from its shores; its inhabitants resided in beautiful man- 
sions ; its soil was fruitful and highly cultivated. The description corresponds 
witli that given of Mexico by the Spaniards who first discovered it. Aristotle 
makes mention of it in the following terms : " It is said that the Carthaginians 
have discovered beyond the Pillars of Hercules a very fertile island, but which 
is Avithout inhabitants, yet full of forests, of navigable rivers, and abounding in 
fruit. It is situated many days' journey from the mainland." After the dis- 
covery of America Europeans were surprised to find in villages in Guatemala 
inhabitants weai'ing tlie Arabian masculine costume and tlie Jewisli feminine 
costume. Travellers in South America have discovered Israelites among 
the Indians. This discovery strengthens the theory given by Garcia, a Spanish 
writer, tliat the Indians are the descendants of the tribes of Israel that were led 
captive into Assyria. Many of the Indian customs and religious rites closely 
resemble tliose of the Israelites. In many tribes the Indians offer the first 
fruits of the earth and of the chase to tlie Great Spirit. They have also certain 
ceremonies at stated periods. Their division of tlie year corresponds with tlio 
Jewish festivals. In some tribes the brother of a deceased husband receives 
the widow into his lodge as his legitimate wife. Some travellers claim to have 
seen circumcision practised among certain tribes. Another analogy between 
the Jews and the Indians is seen in their purifications, batlis, anointings, fasts, 
_ manner of praying, and abstaining from certain quadrupeds, birds, and reptiles 
considered impure. In general Indians are only permitted to marry in their 
own tribe. Some tribes are said to carry with them an ark similar to the one 
mentioned in Holy Writ. I know that all tribes with which I liave been brought 
in contact carry with them a mysterious something which is regai'ded with the 
utmost sacredness and veneration, and upon Avhich the eye of no white man at 
least is ever permitted to rest. Tlien again the " medicine man " of tlie tribe, 
who is not, as Iiis name implies, the physician, but stands in the character of high 
priest, assumes a dress and manner corresponding to those of the Jewish high 
priest. Mr. Adair, who sj)ent forty years among the various northern tril>es, 
and who holds to the idea that the Indian is descended from the Hebrew, as- 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 15 

serts that he discovered an unmistakable resemblance between various Indian 
words and the Hebrew intended to express the same idea. He furtlier asserts 
that lie once heard an Indian apply the following expression to a culprit: 
*• Tsclii JcahsU canalm " — Thou art like unto a Canaanite sinner. 

Numerous evidences and various authorities go to prove that prior to the 
discovery of America by Columbus a series of voyages had been made from 
the old to the new continent. The historical records of the Scandinavians, de- 
scribing their migratory expeditions, fix not only the dates of such excursions, 
but also the exact points on the American coast at which landings were made 
and colonies established. In 1002, Thorwald Ericsson, following the example 
of his countrymen, began a voyage, during which he landed near Cape Cod. 
He was afterward slain in an encounter with the natives. Other expeditions 
were undertalven by the Scandinavians at subsequent periods down to the early 
part of the fifteenth century, when, owing to various causes of decline, in- 
cluding savage wars and disease, these early explorers lost their foothold ou 
the American continent and disappeared from its limits. But from the ninth 
to the fifteenth century it is easily proved by their historical records and tra- 
ditions that the American continent had been visited and occupied by pioneers 
from the Scandinavians. From the great number of inscriptions, antique uton-. 
sils, arms, bone^, and monuments discovered in the New England States, it is 
fair to presume that these adventurers had occupied a larger portion of. the 
new continent than their manuscripts would lead us to suppose. At the same 
time the discoveries in the Western States and territories ofmounds containing 
human bones, earthen vessels, and weapons whose form and structure prove 
that their original owners belonged to a difterent people from any with which 
we are acquainted at the present day, should be received as evidence strongly 
confirmatory of the early migrations claimed to have been made by the Scandi- 
navians and other nations. Admitting that there are certain ijhysiological at- 
tributes common to nearly all the Indian tribes, sufficiently decided and clear 
to enable them to be classed together as one branch of the human family, yet 
an intimate study of all the tribes of North America will develop physical di- 
versities sufficiently ample to justify the belief that the various tribes may have 
sprung from different nationalities. We find them, although generally of a 
copper color, presenting all shades of complexion from a deep black to a shade 
of white. Some tribes are of powerful stature, others are dwarfed. So marked 
are these differences that a person accustomed to meeting the various tribes can 
at a glance distinguish the individuals of one from the other. Almost every 
tribe possesses a language peculiarly its own, and what seems remarkable is 
the fact that no matter how long or how intimately two tribes may be associ- 
ated with each other, they each prCvServe and employ their own language, and 
individuals of the one tribe rarely become versed in the spoken languao'e of 
the other, all intercommunication being carried on either by interpreters or ia 
the universal sign language. This is noticeably true of Cheyennes and Arra- 
pahoes, two tiubes which for years have lived in close proximity to each other, 
and Avho are so strongly bound together, offensively and defensivelj^ as to 
make common cause against the enemies of either, particularly against the 
white man. These tiibes encamp together, hunt together, and make war to- 
gether, yet but a comparatively small number of either can speak fluently the- 
language of the other. I remember to have had an interview at one time with 
a number of prominent chiefs belonging to five different tribes, the Cheyennes, 
Kiowas, Osages, Kaws, and Apaches. In communicating with them it was 



16 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

necessary for my language to be interpi'eted into each of the five Indian 
tongues, no rein-esentatives of any two of the tribes being able to understand the 
language of each other; yet all of these tribes were accustomed to more or less 
intimate association. Between the tribes which inhabited the Eastern States 
and those originally found on the Plains a marked difference is seen to exist. 
They have but little in common, wliile a difference equally marked is discov- 
ered between the Indians of the Plains and those of the mountain regions fur- 
ther west, as well as tlie ti'ibes of both Old and New ^Mexico. 

Inseparable from the Indian character, wherever he is to be met Avith, is 
his remarkable taciturnity, his deep dissimulation, the perseverance with wliich 
he follows his j^lans of revenge or conquest, his concealment and apparent lack 
of curiosity, his stoical courage when in the power of his enemies, his cunning, 
his caution, and last, but not least, the wonderful power and subtlety of his senses. 
Of this last I have had most interesting proof, one instance of which Avill be 
noted when describing the Washita campaign. In studying the Indian char- 
acter, while shocked and disgusted by many of his traits and customs, I find 
much to be admired, and still more of deep and unvarying interest. To me In- 
dian life, with its attendant ceremonies, mysteries, and forms, is a book of un- 
ceasing interest. Grant that some of its pages are frightful, and, if possible, to 
be avoided, yet the attraction is none the weaker. Study him, fight him, civil- 
ize him if you can, he remains still the object of your curiosity, a type of man 
peculiar and undefined, subjecting himself to no known law of civilization, con- 
tending determinedly against all efforts to win him from his chosen mode of 
life. He stands in the gi-oup of nations solitary and reserved, seeking alliance 
with none, mistrusting and ojjposing the advances of all. Civilization may 
and should do much for him, but it can never civilize him. A few instances to 
the contrary may be quoted, but these are susceptible of exjilanation. No tribe 
enjoying its accustomed freedom has ever been induced to adopt a civilized 
mode of life, or, as they express it, to follow the white man's road. At various 
times certain tribes have forsaken the i:)leasures of the chase and the excitement 
of the war-path for the more quiet life to be found on the '* reservation." Was 
tliis course adopted voluntarily and from preference ? Was it because tlie Indian 
chose the ways of his white brother rather than those in which he had been 
born and bred? 

In no single instance has this been true.\ What then, it may be asked, have 
been the reasons which influenced certain tribes to abandon their jiredatory, 
nomadic life, and to-day to influence otliers to pursue a similar course? The 
answer is clear, and as undeniable as it is clear. The gi-adual and steady de- 
crease in numbers, strength, and influence, occasioned by wars both with other 
tribes and with the white man, as well as losses brought about by diseases 
partly attributjible to contact with civilization, have so lowered the standing 
and diminished the available fighting force of the tribe as to render it unable 
to cope with more powerful neighboring tribes with any prospect of success. 
The stronger tribes always assume an overl)earing and dominant manner to- 
ward their weaker neighbors, forcing them to join in costly and bloody wars or 
themselves to be considered enemies. When a tribe falls from the jiosition of 
a leading one, it is at the mercy of evevy tribe tliat chooses to make war, being 
forced to take sides, and at the termination of the war is generally sacrificed to 
the interests of the more powerful. To avoid these sacrifices, to avail itself of 
tlie protection of civilization and its armed forces, to escape from the ruin* 
ing influences of its more warhke and jiowerful neighbors, it reluctantly ao» 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 17 

cepts tho situation, gives up its accustomed liaunts, its wiUl mode of life, and 
nestles down under the i^rotecting arm of its former enemy, the white man, 
and tries, however feebly, to adopt his manner of life. In making this ciiange 
the Indian has to sacrifice all that is dear to his heart ; he abandons the only 
mode of life in which he can be a warrior and win triumphs and honors woithy 
to be sought after ; and in taking up the pursuits of the white man he does that 
which he has always been taught from his earliest infancy to regard as degrad- 
ing to his manhood — to labor, to work for his daily bread, an avocation suitable 
only for squaws. 

To those who advocate the application of the laws of civilization to the 
Indian, it might be a profitable study to investigate the effect which such appli- 
cation produces upon the strength of the tribe as expressed in numbers. Look- 
ing at him as the fearless hunter, tlie matchless horseman and warrior of the 
Plains, where Nature placed him, and contrasting him with the reservation 
Indian, who is supposed to be revelling in tlie delightful comforts and luxuries 
of an enlightened condition, but who in reality is grovelling in beggaiy, l>ereffc 
of many of the qualities which in his wild state tended to render him noble, 
and heir to a combination of vices partly his own, partly bequeathed to him 
from the pale-face, one is foi'ced, even against desire, to conclude that there is 
unending antagonism between the Indian nature and that with which his well- 
meaning white brother would endow him. Nature intended him for a savage 
state ; every instinct, every impulse of his soul inclines him to it. The white 
i"ace might fall into a barbarous state, and afterwards, subjected to the influence 
of civilization, be reclaimed and prosper. Not so the Indian. He cannot be 
himself and be civilized ; he fades away and dies. Cultivation such as the 
white man would give him deprives him of his identity. Education, strange 
as it may apjiear, seems to weaken rather than strengthen his intellect. 
Where do we find any specimens of educated Indian eloquence comj^aring with 
that of such native, untutored orators as Tecumseh, Osceola, Red Jacket, and 
Logan ; or, to select from those of more recent fame, Red Cloud of the Sioux, 
or Sa-tan-ta of the Kiowas? Unfortunately for the last-named chief, whose 
name has been such a terror to our frontier settlements, he will have to be judged 
for otlier qualities than that of eloquence. Attention has more recently been 
directed to him hj his arrest by the military authorities near Fort Sill, Indian 
Territory, and his transportation to Texas for trial by civil coui-t for various 
murders and depredations, alleged to have been committed by him near the 
Texas frontier. He has since had his trial, and, if public rumor is to be cred- 
ited, has been sentenced to death. Reference will be made to this noted chief 
in succeeding pages. His eloquence and able arguments upon the Indian 
question in various councils to which he Avas called won for him tlie deserved 
title of " Orator of the Plains." In his boasting harangue before tlie Gen- 
eral of the Army, which furnished the evidence of his connection witii tlie mur- 
ders for which he has been tried and sentenced, he stated as a justification for 
such outi'ages, or rather as the occasion of them, that they were in retaliation for 
his ai'rest and imprisonment by me some three years ago. As there are two 
sides to most questions, even if one be wrong, Avhen the proper time arrives 
a brief account of Sa-tan-ta's arrest and imprisonment, with the causes lead- 
ing tliercto, will be given in these sketches. One of tho favoi-ite remarks of 
Sa-tan-ta in his orations, and one too which other chiefs often indulge in, being 
thrown out as a " glittering generality," meaning much or little as they may 
desire, but most often the latter, Av.as that he was tired of making war and de- 
sired now " to follow the white man's road." It is scarcely to be presumed that 



18 IVrY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

he found the Ratification of this oft-expressed desire in recently following the 
"white man's road " to Texas, under strong guard and heavily manacled, with 
hanging, to the Indian the most dreaded of all deaths, plainly in the perspec- 
tive. Aside, however, from his character for restless barbarity, and activity in 
f'onducting merciless forays against our exposed frontiers, Sa-tan-ta ia a re- 
markable man — remarkable for his powers of oi'atory, his determined warfare 
against the advances of civilization, and his opposition to the abandonment of 
his accustomed mode of life, and its exchange for the quiet, unexciting, unevent- 
ful life of a reservation Indian. If I were an Indian, I often think that I would 
gi'eatly prefer to cast my lot among those of my people who adhered to the free 
open plains, rathei* than submit to the confined limits of a reservation, there to be 
the i-ecipient of the blessed benefits of civilization, Avith its vices thrown in 
without stint or measure. The Indian can never be permitted to view the ques- 
tion in this deliberate way. He is neitlier a luxury nor necessary of life. lie 
can hunt, roam, and camj^ when and wheresoever he pleases, provided always 
tliat in so doing he does not run contrary to the requirements of civilization 
in its advancing tread. When the soil which he has claimed and hunted 
over for so long a time is demanded by this to him insatiable monster, there 
is no appeal ; he must 3'ield, or, like the car of Juggernaut, it will I'oll merci- 
lessly over him, destroying as it advances. Destiny seems to have so willed 
tt, and the world looks on and nods its approval. At best the history of our 
Indian tribes, no matter from what standpoint it is regarded, aftords a melan- 
choly picture of loss of life. Two hundred years ago it required millions 
to express in numbers the Indian population, while at the present time less 
than half the number of thousands will suftice for the purpose. Where and 
why luive they gone? Ask the Saxon race, since whose introduction into and 
occupation of the country these vast changes have been eSected. 

But little idea can be formed of tlie terrible inroads whicli diseases before 
'Unknown to them have made upon their niimbers. War has contributed its 
share, it is true, but disease alone has done much to depoj^ulate manj' of the In- 
dian trilies. It is stated that the small-pox was first introduced among them by 
the white man in 1837, and that in the short space of one month six tribes lost 
by this disease alone twelve thousand persons. 

Confusion sometimes arises from the division of the Indians into nations, 
tribes, and bands. A nation is generally a confederation of tribes which have 
sprung from a common stock or origin. The trilie is intended to embrace all 
bands and villages claiming a common name, and is i^resided over by a head chief, 
while each band or village is presided over by one or more subordinate chiefs, 
but all acknowledging a certain allegiance to the head or main village. This 
division cannot always be accounted for. It arises sometimes from necessity, 
where tlie entire trilie is a large one, and it is difficult to procure game and 
grazing in one locality sufficient for all. In such cases the various bands are 
not u.^ually separated by any great distance, but regulate their movements so 
as to be able to act in eacli other's behalf Sometimes a chief more warlike 
than the others, who favors war and conquest at all times, and refuses to 
make peace even when his tril>e assents to it, will separate himself, with those 
who choose to unite their fortunes with his, from the remainder of the tribe, 
and act An* the time independ(mtly. Such a character produces endless trou- 
ble; his village becomes a shelter and rendezvous for all the restless spirits of 
the tribe. While the latter is or pretends to be at peace, this band continues 
to make war, yet when pressed or pursued avails itself of the protection oi 
those who are supposed to be peaceable. 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 19 

Having hurriedly sketched tlie country in which we shall find it necessary to 
go, and glanced at certain theories calculated to shed some light on the origin 
and destiny of the Indian tribes, the succeeding jxiges will be devoted to my 
personal experience on the Plains, commencing with the ezpedition of Major- 
General Hancock in the spring of 1867. 



III. 



t 4 rrillERE are two classes of people who are always eager to get up an 
_J_ Indian war — the army and our frontiersmen." 

I quote from an editorial on the Indian question, Avhieh not long since ap- 
peared in the columns of one of the leading New York daily newspapers. 
That this statement was honestly made I do not doubt, but that instead of be- 
ing true it could not have been further from the truth I will attempt to show. 
I assert, and all candid persons familiar with the subject will sustain the asser- 
tion, that of all classes of our population the armj and the people living on the 
frontier entertain the greatest dread of an Indian war, and are willing to make 
the greatest sacrihces to avoid its horrors. This is a proposition, the assertion 
of which almost carries its proof with it. 

Under the most auspicious circumstances, and in time of peace with the In- 
dians, the life of an army officer on the Plains or along our frontier is at best 
one involving no little personal discomfort, and demanding the sacrifice of 
many of the luxuries and benefits which he could oljtain were he locatiid witli- 
in the limits of civilization. To many officers, service in the West amounts 
almost to social exile. Some can have their families with or near them. 
There is a limited opportunity for social intercourse ; travel from the States, to 
and across the Plains, either for business or pleasure, is uninterrupted, and mail 
facilities Avith friends and relations in the States are maintained. An Indian war 
changes all this. The troops must prepare to take the field. Provided witli 
but few comforts, necessarily limited in tliis respect by the amount of trans- 
portation, which on the Plains is narrowed down to the smallest practicable, 
tiie soldier bids adieu — often a final one — to tlie dear ones of home, and Avith his 
comrades in arms sets out, no matter how inclement the season, to seek what? 
fame and glory? How many military men have reaped laurels from their In- 
dian campaigns? Does he strive to win the approving smile of his country- 
men? That is indeed, in this particular instance, a difficult task. For let him 
act as he may in condu(!ting or assisting in a camj^aign against the Indians, if 
he survives the campaign he can feel assured of this fact, that one-lialf of his 
fellow-citizens at home will revile him for his zeal and pronoimce his success, 
if he achieves any, a massacre of poor, defenceless, harmless Indians ; wliile 
the other half, if his eflbrts to chastise the common enemy are not crowned with 
satisfactory results, will cry "Down with him. Down with the regular army, 
and give us brave volunteers who can serve the Government in other ways be- 
sides eating rations and drawing pay." 

An unsuccessful campaign, under which liead nineteen out of twenty may 
reasonably be classed, satisfies no portion of the public, and greatly dissatisfies 
that portion of the "Western population whose knowledge of the murders and 
dei)redations committed by the Indians is, unlike that of the people of tlie States 
further east, of too recent origin to be swept away by false notions of clem- 
ency. During the continuance of the campaign botli officers and soldiers are 
gcn(;rajly cut oil" from all communication with the friends left behind. Couriei's, 
sent as bearers of a few despatclies and letters, are sometimes xindcr cover of 
the niglit enabled to make their way back to the forts ; but even these fail 
sometimes, I now recollect the circumstance of two trusty scouts being sent 
with despatches and a small mail, to make their way from the southern por- 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. ' 21 

tinn of Kiinsas to Foi-t Dodg-e on the Arkansas. When we saw them again wo 
beheld their lifeless, mangled remains, tiieir bodies piereed with numerous ai"^ 
rows, and mutilated almost beyond recognition — our letters seatt(;red h6re and 
there by the savages, who hatl torn open the little canvas mail-bag in search 
of plunder. The Indians had surrounded these faithful fellows when within 
about ten miles of the end of their perilous journey. The numerous empty 
cartriilge shells which lay around and near the bodies of the two men, proved 
how persistently and bravely they had struggled for their lives. 

The opening of an Indian campaign is also the signal for the withdrawal of 
all privileges and enjoyments, such as leaves of absence, visits from Eastern 
friends, hunting and pleasure parties of all kinds. The reception from the 
East of all luxuries and delicacies for the table and of all current literature, 
such as the numerous railroads being constructed in the West, particularly the 
two Pacifies, render easy of procurement, ceases ; and not only th'e private sol- 
dier but the officer is limited in his mess i\ire to an indifferent portion of the 
ordinary ration. Is it probable or reasonable that these objects and results, 
the principal ones generally, so far as the army as individuals is concerned, 
would be considered sufficient to rentier either otHcers or soldiers " eager to 
"•et up an Indian war "? I have j^et to make the acquaintance of that officer 
of the army who, in time of undisturbed peace, desired a war with the Indians. 
On the contrary, the army is the Indian's best friend, so long as the latter de- 
sires to maintain friendship. It is pleasant at all times, and always interesting, 
to have a village of peaceable Indians locate their lodges near our frontier 
posts or camps. The daily visits of the Indians, from the most venerable chief 
to the strapped pappoose, their rude interchange of civilities, their barterings, 
races, dances, legends, strange customs, and fantastic ceremonies, all combine 
to render them far more agi-eeable as friendly neighbors than as crafty, blooit- 
ihirsty enemies. 

As to the frontiersman, he has everything to lose, even to life, and nothing to 
gain by an Indian war. " His object is to procure a fat contract or a market 
for his produce," adds the journal from which the opening lines of this chapter 
are quoted. This seems plausible and likely enough. But does that journal, and 
do the people who believe on this question as it does, know that there are two 
reasons — more are not required — why its statement is a very gi-eat error .^ First, 
our frontier farmers, busily employed as they are in opening up their farms, never 
haveanjf produce to dispose of, but consider themselves fortunate if they have sxif- 
ficientfor their personal Avants. They are never brought in contact with the In- 
dian except when the latter makes a raid or incursion of at least hundreds of 
miles, and attacks the settlements. It is another case of Alohammed and the 
mountain. The frontiersman never goes beyond the settlements. The Indian 
forsakes his accustomed hunting-grounds when ambitious of obtaining scalps or 
plunder, and visits the settlements. The only ground upon which the frontiers- 
man can be accused of inspiring or inciting a war with the Indian is, that when 
applied to by the latter to surrender his life, family, and property, scalp thrown 
in, he stoutly refuses, and sometimes employ's force to maintain this refusal. I 
have shown that this abused class of the pioneers of civilization have no hand in 
the fat contracts. Who are the fortimate parties? AVith but rare exceptions 
our most expensive expeditions against the Indians on the Plains have been 
supplied by contracts made with parties far inside the limits of civilization, 
who probably never saw a hostile Indian, and who never even visited the In- 
dian country. The supplies are purchased far from the frontiers, in tho 
rich and thickly settled portions of the States, then shipped by rail and boat to 



22 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

the most available mllitai'y post, from which point they ai'e generally drawn 
by huge trains of army wagons, or carried on jjaok animals. 

Of the many important exjieditious organized to operate in tlie Indian 
country, none, perhaps, of late year's has excited more general and unfriendly 
comment, considering the slight loss of life inflicted upon the Indians, than the 
expedition organized and led in person by Major-General Hancock in the spring 
of 1867. The clique generally known as the "Indian ring" were particularly 
malevolent and bitter in their denunciations of General Hancock for precipitat- 
ing, as they expressed it, an Indian war. This expedition was quite formida- 
ble in appearance, being made up of eight troops of cavalry, seven companies 
<;f infantry, and one battery of light artillery, numbering altogether about 1,400 
men. As General Hancock at the time and since has been so often accused of 
causelessly bringing on an Indian war, a word in explanation may not be 
amiss. 

Being in command of the cavalry connected with the expedition, I had am- 
ple and frequent opportunities for learning the true purposes and objects of 
the mai'ch into the heart of the Indian country. I know no better mode of 
explaining these than by quoting tlie following extract from letters written by 
General Hancock to the agents of the various tribes with which we expected 
to be brought in contact: "I have the honor to state for your information that 
I am at present prejjariug an expedition to the Plains, which will soon be ready 
to move. My object in doing so at this time is, to convince the Indians within 
the limits of this department that we are able to punish any of them who may 
molest travellers across the Plains, or who may commit other hostilities 
against the whites. We desire to avoid if possible any troubles with the In- 
dians, and to treat them with justice, and according to the requirements of our 
treaties with them ; and I wish especially in my dealings with them to act 
through the agents of the Indian Department as far as it is possible so to do. 

If you as their agent can arrange these matters satisfactorily 

with them, we will be pleased to defer the whole subject to you. In case of 
your inability to do so, I would be jjleased to have you accompany me when 
I visit the country of your tribes, to show that the officers of the Government 
are acting in harmony. I will be pleased to talk with any of the cliiefs whom 
we may meet." 

Surely there was no hostile intent here expressed. In another commnnica- 
tion to the agents of different tribes. General Hancock, in referring to certain 
murders which had been recently committed, and which had been traced to 
the tribes in question, said : "These cases will now be left entirely in the hands 
of the Indian Dei^artment, and I do not expect to make war against any of the 
Indians of your agency unless they commence war against us." 

It may be asked, Wh:)t had the Indians done to make this incursion neces- 
sary? They had been guilty of numerous thefts and murders during the preced- 
ing summer and fall, for none of which had they been called to account. They 
had attacked the stations of the overland mail route, killed the employees, 
burned the station, and captured the stock. Citizens had been murdered in 
tlieir homes on the frontier of Kansas; murders had been committed on the 
Arkansas route. The principal perpetrators of these acts were the Cheyennes 
and Sioux. The agent of the former, if not a jjarty to the murder on the Ar- 
kansas, knew who the guilty persons were, yet took no stej'S to bring the mur- 
derers to iiunishment. Such a coiu'se would have interfered with his trade and 
profits. It was not to punish for these sins of the jwist that the expedition was 
bet on foot, but rather by its imposing appearance and its early presence in the 



MY LIFE ON^ THE PLAINS. 23 

Indian country to check or intimidate the Indians from a repetition of their 
late conduct. Tliis was deemed particularly necessary from the fact tliat tlie 
various tribes from wliich we had greatcjst cause to antici2)ate trouble had dur- 
ing the winter, through their leading chiefs and warriors, threatened that as 
soon as the grass was up in sjiring a coml)ined outbreak would take place along 
our entire frontier, and especially against the main routes of travel. To as- 
semble the tribes for the desired council, word was sent early in March to the 
agents of those tribes whom it was desirable to meet. The agents sent runners 
to the villages inviting them to meet us at some point near the Arkansas 
river. 

General Hancock, with the artillery and six companies of infantry, reached 
Fort Kiley, Kansas, from Fort Leavenworth by rail the last week in March; 
here he was joined by four comijanies of the Seventh Cavalry and an additional 
company of the Thirty-seventh Infantry. It was at this point that I joined 
the expetlition. And as a very fair sample of tlie laurels which military men 
may win in an Indian camjjaign by a zealous discliarge of what they deem their 
dut}% I will here state, in parenthesis, that after engaging in the expedition, 
some of the events of which I am about to relate, and undergoing fatigue, 
privations, and dangers equal to those of a campaign during the Rebellion, I 
found myself at the termination of the campaign again at Fort Riley in arrest. 
This is not mentioned in a fault-finding spirit. I have no fault to fmd. It is 
said that blessings sometimes come in disguise. Such proved to be true in 
this instance, although I must say the disguise for some little time was most 
perfect. 

From Fort Riley we marched to Fort Ilarker, a distance of ninety miles, 
where our force was strengthened by the addition of two more troops of caval- 
ry. Halting only long enough to replenish our supj^lies, we next directed our 
march toward Fort Larned, near the Arkansas, about seventy miles to the 
southeast. A march from the 3d to the 7th of April brought us to Fort Larned. 
The agent for the Comanches and Kiowas accompanied us. At Fort Larned 
we found the agent of the Chej-ennes, Arapahoes, and Apaches ; from the lat- 
ter we learned that he had, as requested, sent runners to the chiefs of his 
agency inviting them to the council, and that they had agreed to assemble near 
Fort Larned on the 10th of the month, requesting that the expedition would 
reiHain there until that date. To this request General Hancock acceded. 

On the 9th of April, while encamped awaiting the council, which Avas to be 
held the following day, a terrible snow-storm occurred, lasting all day until 
late in the evening. It was our good fortune to be in camp rather than on the 
march ; had it been otherwise, we could not well have escaped without loss of 
life from the severe cold and blinding snow. The cavalry horses sutlered seri- 
ously, and were only preserved by doubling their ration of oats, while to pre- 
vent their being frozen during the intensely cold night which followed, the 
guards wei'e instructed to keep passing along the jjicket lines with a whip, and 
to keep the horses moving constantly. The snow was eight inches in doi^tli. 
The council, which was to take place the next day, had to be postjioned until 
the return of good weather. Now began the display of a kind of diiilomacy 
for which the Indian is peculiar. The Cheyennes and a band of the Sioux 
were encamped on Pawnee Fork, about thirty miles above Fort Larned. They 
nei/ her desired to move nearer to us nor have us approach nearer to them. On 
tlie morning of the 11th they sent us woi'd that they had started to visit us, but 
discovering a Large herd of buffalo near their camp, they had stoj^ped to procure 
a supply of meat. This message was not received with much confidence, nor 



24 MY LIFE ON THE TLAIXS. 

was a buftUlo hunt deemed of sullk-ient importance to .justify tlie Indians in 
breaking their enjiagement. General Hancock decided, however, to delay an- 
other day, when, if the Indians still failed to come in, he would moAc his com- 
mand to the vicinity of their vilhige and hold tlie conference there. 

Orders were issued on the evening of tlie 12th for the march to be resumed 
on the following day. Later in the evening two chiefs of the " Dog Soldiers," 
a band composed of the most wavlike and troublesome Indians on the Plains, 
chiefly made up of Cheyennes, visited our camp. They were accompanied 
by a dozen warriors, and expressed a desire to hold a conference with General 
Hancock, to which he assented. A large council fii-e was built in front of 
tlie General's tent, and all the officers of his command assembled there, A 
tent had been erected for the accommodation of the chiefs a short distance from 
the General's. Before they could feel equal to the occasion, and in order to 
obtain time to collect their thoughts, they desired that supper might be pre- 
pared for them, which was done. When finally ready they advanced from 
their tent to the council fii-e in single file, accompanied by their agent and 
an interpreter. Arrived at the fire, another brief delay ensued. No matter 
how pressing or momentous the occasion, an Indian invariablj'^ declines to en- 
gage in a council until he has filled his pipe and gone through with the im- 
portant ceremony of a smoke. This attended to, the chiefs announced that 
-they were ready " to talk." They were then introduced to the principal offi- 
cers of the group, and seemed much struck with the flashy uniforms of the few 
artillery officers who were present in all the glory of red horsehair plumes, 
aigulets, etc. The chiefs seemed puzzled to determine whether these insignia 
designated chieftains or medicine men. General Hancock began the confer- 
ence by a speech, in which he exjilaiued to the Indians his purpose in coming 
to see them, and what lie exijected of them in the future. He particularly 
informed them that he was not there to make war, but to jn'omote peace. Then 
expressing his regret that more of the chiefs had not visited him, he announced 
his intention of proceeding on the morrow with his command to the vicinity 
of their village and there holding a council with all of the chiefs. Tall Bull, 
a fine, warlike-looking chieftain, replied to General Hancock, but his speech 
contained nothing important, being made up of allusions to the growing 
scarcity of the butl'alo, his love for the white man, and the usual hint that a 
donation in the way of refreshments would be highly acceptable ; he added 
that he would have nothing new to say at the village. 

Several years pridr to the events referred to, our peoj^le had captured from 
the Indians two children. I believe they were survivors of the Chivington 
massairre at Sand Creek, Colorado. These children had been kindly careil for, 
and were btdng taught to lead a civilized mode of life. Their relatives, how- 
ever, made demands for them, and we by treaty stipulation agreed to deliver 
them up. One of them, a little girl, had been cared for kimlly in a family 
living near Denver, Colorado; the other, a lx)y, had been carrie<l East to tlie 
States, and it was with gi-eat difficulty that the Government was able to learn 
his whereabouts and obtain possession of him. He was finally discovered, how- 
ever, and sent to General Hancock, to be by him delivered up to his tribe. He 
accomjianied the expedition, and was quite a curiosity for the time being. He 
Avas dressed comfortably, in accordance with (uvilized custom; and, having been 
i taken from his people at so early an age, was apparently satisfied with tiie life 
lie led. The Indians who came to our camp expressed a great desire to see 
him, and when he was bi'ought into their jiresence they exliihited no emotion 
such as wliite men under similar circumstances might be expected to show 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 25 

Tlioy evidently were not pleased to see liim clothed in the wliite man's dress. 
'J'liG little fellow, then some eight or ten years of age, seemed little disposed to 
go back to his people. I saw him the following year in the village of his 
tiibe; he then had lost all trace of civilization, had forgotten his knowledge of 
the English language, and was as shy and suspicious of the wliite men as any 
of his dusky comrades. From older persons of the ti'ibe we learned that their 
first act after obtaining possession of him was to deprive him of his " store 
clothes," and in their stead substitute the blanket and leggings. 

Rightly concluding that the Indians did not intend to come to our camp as 
they had at first agreed to, it was decided to move nearer to their village. Ou 
the morning following the conference held with the two chiefs of the " Dog 
Soldiers," oix entire force therefore marched from Fort Earned up Pawnee 
Fork in the direction of the main village, encamping the first night about 
twenty-one miles from the fort. Several parties of Indians w^ere seen in our 
advance during the day, evidently watching our movements; while a heavy 
smoke, seen to rise in the direction of the Indian village, indicated that some- 
thing more than usual was going on. This smoke we afterwards learned 
arose from the burning grass. The Indians, thinking to prevent ns from en- 
camping in their vicinity, had set. fire to and burned all the grass for miles in 
tlie direction from which they expected us. Before we arrived at our camping- 
ground we were met by several chiefs and warriors belonging to the Cheyennes 
and Sioux. Among the chiefs were Pawnee Killer of the Sioux, and AVliite 
Horse of the Cheyennes. It was arranged that these chiefs should accejjt our 
hospitality and remain with us during the night, and in the morning all the 
chiefs of the two tribes then in the village were to come to General Hancock's 
headquarters and hold a council. On the morning of the 14th Pawnee Killer 
left our camp at an early hour, for the purpose, as he said, of going to the vil- 
lage to bring in the other chiefs to the council. Nine o'clock had been agreed 
upon as the hour at which the council should assemble. The hour came, but 
the chiefs did not. Now an Indian council is not onl}^ often an important but 
always an interesting occasion. And, somewhat like a famous recipe for mak- 
ing a certain dish, the first thing necessary in holding an Indian council is to 
get the Indian. Half-past nine o'clock came, and still we were lacking this 
one iniporttint part of the council. At this juncture Bull Bear, an influential 
chief among the Cheyennes, came in and reported that the chiefs were on their 
way to our camp, but would not be able to reach it for some time. Tiiis Avas 
a mere artifice to secure delay. General Hancock informed Bull Bear that as 
the chiefs oould not arrive for some time, he would move his forces up the 
stream nearer to the village, and the council could be held at our camp that 
night. To this proposition Bull' Bear gave his assent. 

At 11 A. M. we resumed the march, and had jaroceeded but a few miles 
when Ave witnessed one of the finest and most imposing military displays, pre- 
i:)ared according to the Indian art of war, which it has ever been my lot to be- 
hold. It was nothing more nor less than an Indian line of battle drawn di- 
rectly across our line of march ; as if to say. Thus far and no further. Most of 
tiie Indians were mounted ; all were bedecked in their brightest colors, their 
heads crowned with the brilliant war-bonnet, their lances bearing the ciumson 
pennant, bows strung, and quivers full of barbed arrows. In adchtion to thcise 
weajjons, which with the hunting-knife and tomahawk are considered as 
forming the armament of the warrior, each one was supplied Avith either a 
breech-loading rifle or revolver, sometimes with both — the latter obtjxined 
through the Avise foresight and strong love of fair play Avhich prevails in tho 



26 MY LIFE OX THE TLxVINS. 

Indian Department, which, seeing tliat its wards are determined to figlit, is 
equally determined that there sliall be no advantage taken, but tliat the two sides 
sliall be armed alike ; proving, too, in this manner the wonderful liberality of 
our Government, which not only is able to furnish its soldiers with the latest 
improved style of breech-loaders to defend it and themselves, but is equally 
able and willing to give the same pattern of arms to their common foe. The 
only dift'erence is, that tlie soldier, if he loses his weapon, is charged double price 
for it; while to avoid making any such charge against the Indian, his weapons 
are given him without conditions attached. In the line of battle before us there 
were several hundred Indians, while further to the rear and at diU'erent dis- 
tances were other organized bodies acting apparently as reserves. Still further 
were small detachments who seemed to perform the duty of couriers, and 
were held in readiness to convey messages to the village. The ground beyond 
was favorable for an extended view, allowing the eye to sweep the plain for 
several miles. As far as the eye could reach small groups or individuals 
could be seen in the direction of the village; these were evidently parties of 
ol)servation, whose sole object was to learn the result of our meeting with the 
main body and hasten with the news to the village. 

For a few moments appearances seemed to foreshadow anything but a peace- 
ful issue. The infantry was in the advance, followed closely by the artillery, 
while my command, the cavalry, was marching on the tiank. General Han- 
cock, who was riding with his statf at the head of the column, coming suddenly 
in view of the wild fantastic battle array, which extended far to our right and 
left and not more than half a mile in our front, hastily sent orders to the inftin- 
try, artillery, and cavalry to form line of battle, evidently determined that if 
war was intended we should be prepared. The cavalry, being the last to form 
on the right, came into line on a gallop, and, without waiting to align the ranks 
carefully, the command was given to " draw sabre." As the bright blades 
flashetl from their scabbards into the morning sunlight, and the infantry brought 
their muskets to a carry, a most beautiful and wonderfully interesting sight was 
spread out before and around us, presenting a contrast which, to a military eye, 
could but be striking. Here in battle array, facing each other, were the repre- 
sentatives of civilized and barbarous warfare. The one, with but few modihca- 
tions, stood clothed in tlie same rude style of dress, bearing the same patterned 
shield and we.ipon that his ancestors had borne centuries before ; the other 
confronted him in the dress and supplied with tlie implements of war which 
the most advanced stage of civilization had pronounced the most perfect. 
Was the comparative superiority of these two classes to be subjected to the 
mere test of war here? Such seemed the prevailing impression on both sides. 
All was eager anxiety and expectation. Neither side seemed to comprehend the 
object or intentions of the other ; each was waiting for the other to deliver the 
first blow. A more beautifid battle-ground could not have been chosen. Not 
a bush or even the slightest irregularity of ground intervened between the two 
lines which now stood frowning and facing each other. Chiefs could be seen 
riding along the line as if directing and exhorting their braves to deeds of 
heroism. 

After a few moments of painful suspense. General Hancock, accompanied 
by General A. J. Smith and other oHicers, rode forward, and through an inter- 
preter invited the chiefs to meet us midway, for the purpose of an interview 
In response to tliis invitation Roman Nose, bearing a white llag, accon)panied 
by Bull Bear, White Horse, Gray Beard, and jVLedicine Wolf on the part of the 
Cheyennes, and Pawnee liiller, Bad Wound, Tall Bear that Walks under the 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS 27 

Ground, Left ILuid, Little Bear, and Little Bull on the part of the Sioux, rode 
forward to the middle of the open space between the two lines. Here we shook 
hands witli all of the chiefs, most of them exhiliiting unmistakable signs of 
gratilication at this apparently i^eaccful termination of our rencounter. General 
Hancock very naturally inquired the object of the hostile attitude displayed 
before us, saying to the chiefs that if war was their object we were ready then 
and there to participate. Their immediate answer was that they did not desire 
war, but Avere i^eacefully disposed. They were then told that we would con- 
tinue our march toward the village, and encamp near it, but would establisii 
such regulations that none of the soldiers would be permitted to approach or 
disturb them. An arrangement was then effected by which the chiefs were to 
assemble at General Hancock's headquarters as soon as our camp was pitched. 
The interview then terminated, and the Indians moved off in the direction of 
their village, we following leisurely in rear. 

A march of a few miles brought us in sight of the village, which was situ- 
ated in a beautiful grove on the banks of the stream up which we had been 
marching. The village consisted of upwards of three hundred lodges, a small 
fraction over half belonging to the Cheyennes, the remainder to the Sioux. 
Like all Indian encampments, the ground chosen was a most romantic s^jot, 
and at the same time fulfilled in every respect the requirements of a good 
camping-ground; wood, water, and grass were abundant. The village was 
placed on a wide, level plateau, while on the north and west, at a short distance 
off, rose high bluffs, which admirably served as a shelter against the cold winils 
which at that season of the year prevail from these directions. Our tents were 
pitched within half a mile of the village. Guards were placed between to pre- 
vent intrusion upon our part. A few of the Indian ponies found grazing near 
our camp were caught and returned to them, to show that our intentions were 
at least neighborly. We had scarcely pitched our tents when Roman Nose, 
Bull Bear, Gray Beard, and Medicine Wolf, all prominent chiefs of the Chey- 
ennes, came into camp, with the information that upon our approach their 
women and children had all tied from the village, alarmed by the presence of 
so many soldiers, and imagining a second Chivington massacre to be intended. 
General Hancock insisted that they should all return, promising protection and 
good treatment to all ; that if the camp was abandoned he would hold it respon- 
sible. The chiefs then stated their belief in their ability to recall the fugitives, 
could they be furnished with horses to overtake them. This was accordingly 
done, and two of them set out mounted on two of our horses. An agTcement 
was also entered into at the same time that one of our interpreters, Ed. Gur- 
rier, a half-breed Cheyenne Avho was in the employ of the Government, should 
remain in the village and i*eport every two hours as to whether any Indians were 
leaving the village. This was aliout seven o'clock in the evening. At half 
past nine the half-breed returned to heailquarters, with the intelligence that all 
the chiefs and warriors were saddling up to leave, under circumstances show- 
ing that they had no intention of returning, such as packing up such articles as 
could be carried with them, and cutting and destroying their lodges, this liist 
being done to obtain small pieces for temporary shelter. 

I had retired to my tent, which was located some few hundred yards from 
that of General Hancock, when a messenger from the latter awakened me with 
the information that General Hancock desired my presence at his tent. Im- 
aguiing a movement on the part of the Indians, I made no delay in responding 
to the summons. General Hancock brieiiy stated tlie situation of affairs, and 
directed me to mount my command as quickly and as silently as possible, sur- 



23 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

roiiail the Indian Tillage, and prevent the departure of its inhabitants. Easily 
said, but not so easily done. Under ordinary circumstances, silence not being 
necessary, I could have returned to my camp, and by a few blasts from the 
trumpet placed every soldier in his saddle almost as qiTickly as it has taken 
time to write tliis sentence. No bugle calls must be sounded; we were to 
adopt some of the stealth of the Indian — how successfully remains to be seen. 
By this time every soldier, officers as Avell as men, Avas in his tent sound asleep. 
How to awaken them and imi3art to each the necessaiy order.-' First going to 
the tent of the adjutant and arousing him, I procured an experienced assistant 
in my labors. Next the captains of companies were awakened and orders im- 
parted to them. They in turn transiuitted the order to the first sergeant, Avho 
similarly aroused the men. It has often surprised me to observe the alacrity 
with which disciplined soldiers, experienced in campaigning, will hasten to 
prepare themselves for the march in an emergency lilie this. No questions are 
asked, no time is wasted. A soldiei*\s toilet, on an Indian campaign, is a sim- 
ple affair, and requires little time for arranging. His clothes are gathered 
up hurriedly, no matter how, so long as he retains jwssession of them. The 
first object is to get his horse saddled and bridled, and until this is done his own 
toilet is a matter of secondary importance, and one button or hook must do 
the duty of half a dozen. When his horse is ready for the mount the rider 
will be seen completing his own equipment; stray buttons will receive atten- 
tion, arms be overhauled, spurs restrapped ; then, if there still remain a few 
spare moments, the homely black pipe is filled and lighted, and the soldier's 
preparation is completed. 

The night was all that could be desired for the success of our enterjn'ise. 
The air was mild and pleasant; the moon, althougli nearly full, kept almost 
constantly behind the clouds, as if to screen us in our hazardous undertp.king. 
I say hazardous, because there were none of us who imagined for one moment 
that if the Indians discovered us in our attempt to surround them and their vil- 
lage, we Avould escape without a fight — a fight, too, in which the Indians, shel- 
tered behind the trunks of the statelj^ forest trees under Avhich their lodges 
were pitched, would possess all the advantage. General Hancock, anticipating 
that the Indians would discover our approach, and that a fight would ensue, or- 
dered the artillery and infantry under arms, to await the result of our moon- 
light venture. My command was soon in the saddle, and silently making its 
way toward the village. Instructions had been given foi'bidding all conversa- 
tion except in a Avliisi^or. Sabres were so disposed of as to prevent clanging. 
Taking a camp-fire which we could see in the village as o\ir guiding point, we 
made a detour so as to place the village between ourselves and the infantry. 
Occasionally the moon Avould peep out from behind the clouds and enable us to 
catch a hasty glance at the village. Here and there under the thick foliage we 
could see the white, conical-shaped lodges. Were their inmates slumbering, 
unaware of our close proximity, or were their dusky defenders concealed, as 
well they might have been, along the banks of the Pawnee, quietly awaiting 
our approach, and prepared to greet us with their well-known war-whoop? 
These were questions that were probably suggested to the mind of each indi- 
vidual of my command. If we were discovered aj^proaching in the stealthy, 
suspicious manner which characterized our movements, the hour being mid- 
night, it would require a more confiding nature than that of the Indian 
to assign a ft-iendly or peaceful motive to our conduct. The same flashes 
of moonlight which gave us hurried glimpses of the village enabled us to 
see oui" own column of horsemen stretching its silent length far into the dim 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 29 

darkness, and winding its course, like some liiige anaconda about to envelop 
its victim. 

Tiie method by which it was determined to establish a cordon of armed 
troopei's about the fated village, was to direct tlie marcli in a circle, witli the 
village in the centre, the commanding olliccr of each rear troop halting his 
command at the proper point, and deploying his men similarly to a line of 
skirmishers — the entire circle, when thus formed, facing toward the village, 
and distant from it perhaps a few liundred yards. No sooner was our line 
completely formed than the moon, as if deeming darkness no longer essential 
to our success, appeared from behind her screen and ligiited up the entire 
scene. And a beautiful scene it was. The great circle of troops, each indi- 
vidual of which sat on his steed silent as a statue, tlie beautiful and in st)me 
places dense foliage of the cotton trees sheltering and shading the bleached, 
skin-clad lodges of the red man, while in the midst of all murmured undisturb- 
edly in its channel the little stream on whose banks the village was located, 
all combined to produce an artistic effect, as beautiful as it was interesting. 
But we were not there to study artistic effects. The next step was to determine 
Avhether we had cajjtured an inhabited village, involving almost necessarily a 
fierce conflict with its savage occupants, or whether tlie red man had again 
proven too wily and crafty for his more civilized brothers. 

Directing the entire line of troopers to remain mounted with carbines held 
at the " advance," I dismounted, and taking with me Gurrier, the half-breed, 
Dr. Coates, one of our medical staff, and Lieutenant Moylan, the adjutant, pro- 
ceeded on our hands and knees toward the village. Tlae prevailing ojiinion 
was that the Indians were still asleep. I desired to approach near enough to the 
lodges to enable the half-breed to hail the village in the Indian tongue, and if 
possible estiiblish friendly relations at once. It became a question of prudence 
witli us, which we discussed in whisf)ers as we proceeded on our " Tramp, 
tramp, tramp, the boys are creeping," how far from our horses and how near 
to the village we dared to go. If so few of us were discovered entering the 
village in this questionable manner, it was more than probable that, like the 
returners of stolen property, we should be suitably rewarded and no ques- 
tions asked. The opinions of Gurrier, the half-breed, were eagerly sought 
for and generally deferred to. His wife, a fidl-blooded Cheyenne, Avas a resi- 
dent of tlie village. This with him was an additional reason for wishing a 
peaceful termination to our efforts. When we had passed over two-thirds of 
the distance between our horses and the village, it was deemed best to make 
our presence known. Thus far not a sound had been heard to disturlj the 
stillness of tlie night. Gurrier called out at the top of his voice in the Chey- 
enne tongue. The only response came from the throats of a score or more of 
Indian dogs which set up a fierce barking. At the same time one or two of 
our party asserted that they saw figures moving beneath the trees. Gurrier 
repeated his summons, but with no better result than before. 

A hurried consultation ensued. The presence of so many dogs in the village 
was regarded by the half-breed as almost jjositive assurance that the Indians 
were still there. Yet it was difficult to account for their silence. Gurrier in a 
loud tone repeated who he was, and that our mission was a friendly one. Still 
no answer. He then gave it as his opinion that the Indians were on the alert, 
and were probably waiting in the shadow of the trees for us to approach near- 
er, when thej' would pounce upon us. This comforting opinion induced an- 
other conference. Wc must ascertain the truth of the matter; our partj' could 



80 MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

do this as well as a larger number, and to go back and send another party in 
our stead could not be tliought of. 

Forward was the verdict. Each one gi'asped his revolver, resolved to do 
nis best, whether it was in running or fighting. I think most of us would have 
preferred to take our own chances at running. We had ajiproached near 
enough to see that some of the lodges were detached some distance from the 
main encamijment. Selecting the neai'est of these, we directed our advance 
on it. While all of ns were full of the spirit of adventure, and were further 
encouraged with the idea that we were in the discharge of our duty, there was 
scarcely one of us who would not have felt more comfortable if we could have 
got back to our horses without loss of pride. Yet nothing, nnder the circum- 
stances, but a positive order Avould have induced any one to withdraw. The 
doctor, who Avas a great wag, even in moments of greatest danger, could not 
restrain his propensities in this direction. When everything before us was be- 
ing weighed and discussed in the most serious manner, he remarked : "Gen- 
eral, this recalls to my mind those beautiful lines : 

Backward, turn backwai-d, Time, in thy flight. 
Make nie a child again just for one night — 

this night of all others." 

We shall meet the doctor again before daylight, but under different 
circumstances. 



IV. 



CAUTIOUSLY approaching, on all fours, to within a few yards of the near- 
est lodge, occasionally halting and listening to discover evidence as to 
whether the village was deserted or not, we fiuall}' decided that the Indiana had 
fled before the arrival of the cavalry, and that none but empty lodges were be- 
fore us. This conclusion somewhat emboldened as well as accelerated our 
progress. Arriving at the first lodge, one of our jxarty raised the curtain or 
mat which served as a door, and the doctor and myself entered. The interior 
of the lodge was dimly lighted by the decaying embers of a small fire built in 
the centre. All around us were to be seen the usual adornments and articles 
which constitute the household eftects of an Indian family. Buffalo robes Avere 
spread like carpets over the floor; head-mats, used to recline uiion, were ar- 
ranged as if for the comfort of their owners ; ])arfleches, a sort of Indian band- 
box, with their contents apparently undisturbed, were to be found carefully 
stowed away under the edges or borders of the lodge. These, with the door- 
mats, paint-bags, rawhide ropes, and other articles of Indian equipment, were 
left as if the owners had only absented themselves for a brief period. To com- 
j)lete the picture of an Indian lodge, over the fire hung a camji-kettle, in which, 
by means of the dim light of the fire, we could see what had been intended 
for the supper of the late occupants of the lodge. The doctor, ever on the 
alert to discover additional items of knowledge, whether pertaining to his- 
tory or science, snufled the savory odors which arose from the dark recesses 
of the mysterious kettle. Casting about the lodge for some instrument to aid 
him in his pursuit of knowledge, he found a horn spoon, with which he began 
his investigation of the contents, finally succeeding in getting possession of a 
fragment which might have been the half of a duck or rabbit, judging merely 
from its size. "Ah!" said the doctor, in his most complacent manner, "here 
is the opportunity I have long been waiting for. I have often desired to test 
and taste of the Indian mode of cooking. What do you suppose this is? " hold- 
ing up the dripping morsel. Unable to obtain the desired information, the 
Doctor, Avhose naturally good appetite had been sensibly sharpened by his re- 
cent exercise a la guadrtqiede, set to with a will and ate heartilj' of the myste- 
rious contents of the kettle. "What can this be?" again inquired the doctor. 
He was onlj^ satisfied on one point, that it was delicious — a dish fit for a king. 
Just then Guen-ier, the half-breed, entered the lodge. He could solve the mys- 
tery, having spent years among the Indians. To him the doctor appealed for 
information. Fishing out a huge piece, and attacking it with the voracity of a 
hungry wolf, he was not long in determining what the doctor had supped so 
heartily upon. His fii'st words settled the mj-stery: "Why, this is dog." I 
will not attempt to repeat the few but emphatic words uttered by tlie heartily 
disgusted member of the medical fraternity as he rushed from the lodge. 

Other members of our small party had entered other lodges, only to find 
them, like the first, deserted. But little of the furniture belonging to the lodges 
had been taken, showing how urgent and hasty had been the flight of the own- 
ers. To aid in the examination of the village, reinforcements were added to 
our party, and an exploration of each lodge was determined upon. At the 
same time a messenger was despatched to General Hancock, informing him of 
the flight of the Indians. Some of the lodges were closed by having brush or 



32 MY LIFE OX TIIK PLaIXS, 

timber piled up against tlie entrance, as if to preserve tlie contents. Others 
hatl huge pieces cut from their sides, these pieces eviilentlj' being carried away 
to furnish temj^orary shelter to the fugitives. In most of the lodges the lires 
were still burning. I had entered several witliout discovering anything im- 
portant. Finally, in company with the doctor, I arrived at one, the interior 
of which was quite dark, the fire having almost died out. Procuring a lighted 
fagot, I prepared to explore it, as I had done the others ; but no sooner had I en- 
tered the lodge than my fagot failed me, leaving me in total darkness. Hand- 
ing it out to the doctor to be relighted, I began feeling my Avay about the in- 
terior of the lodge. I had almost made the circuit Avhen my hand came in con- 
tact with a human foot; at the same time a voice unmistakably Indian, and 
which evidently came from the owner of the foot, convinced me that I was not 
alone. My first impression was that in their hasty flight the Indians had gone 
oft" leaving this one asleep. My next, very naturally, related to myself. I 
would have gladly placed myself on the outside of the lodge, and there matured 
jxans for interviewing its occupant; but unfortunately to reach the entrance of 
the lodge I must either pass over or ai-ound the owner of the befoi'e-mentioned 
foot and voice. Could I have been convinced that among Us other possessions 
there was neither tomahawk nor scalping-knife, pistol nor Avar-club, or any simi- 
lar article of the noble red man's toilet, I would have risked an attempt to es- 
cape through the low narrow opening of the lodge ; but who ever saw an In- 
dian without one or all of these interesting trinkets? Had I made the attemjjt, 
I should have expected to encounter either the keen edge of the scalping-knife 
or the blow of tlie tomahawk, and to have engaged in a questional)le struggle 
for life. This would not do. I crouched in silence for a few moments, hoping 
the doctor would return with the lighted fagot. I need not saj'^ that each suc- 
ceeding moment sjoent in the darkness of tliat lodge seemed like an age. I 
could hear a slight movement on the part of my unknown neighbor, which did 
not add to my comfort. Why does not the doctor return ? At last I discovered 
the approach of a light on the outside. When it neared the entrance I called 
to the doctor and informed him that an Indian was in the lodge, and tliat he 
hn.d better have his weapons ready for a conflict. I had, upon discovering the 
foot, drawn my hunting-knife from its scabbard, and now stood waiting the 
denouement. With his lighted fagot in one hand and cocked revolver in the 
other, tlie doctor cautiously entered the lodge. And there, directly between 
us, wrapped in a buflalo robe, lay the cause of my anxiety — a little Indian 
girl, probably ten years old; not a full-blood, but a half-breed. Slie was terri- 
bly frightened at finding herself in our hands, with none of her people near. 
AVhy was she left behind in this manner? Guerrier, our half-breed interpret- 
er, was called in. His inquiries were soon answered. The little girl, who at 
first Avas an object of our curiosity, became at once an object of pity. The In- 
dians, an unusual thing for them to do toward their OAvn blood, had wilfully 
deserted her; but this, alas! was the least of their injuries to her. After being 
shamefally abandoned by the entire village, a few of the young men of the 
tribe returned to the deserted lodge, and upon the jjerson of this little girl 
committed outrages, the details of which are too sickening for these pages. 
She was carried to the fort and placed under the care of kind hands and warm 
Iiearts, where everything was done for her comfort that was possible. Other 
parties in exjiloring the deserted village found an old, decrepit Indian of tiie 
Sioux tribe, who also had been deserted, owing to his infirmities and inability 
to travel Avith the tribe. He also was kindly cared for bv the authorities of the 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. ^ 3« 

fort. Notliing was gleaned from our search of the village which might indi- 
cate the direction of tlie lliglit. General Hancock, on learning the situation of 
affairs, despatched some companies of infantry to the deserted village, with or- 
ders to replace the cavalry and protect the village and its contents from dis- 
turbance until its final disposition could be determined upon. Starting my 
command back to our camp near General Hancock's headquarters, I galloped 
on in advance to report tlie particulars to the General. It was tlien decided 
that with eight troops of cavalry I should start in pursuit of the Indians at early 
dawn on the following morning (April 15). Tiiere was no sleep for my com- 
mand the remainder of the night, the time being fully occu])ied in preparation 
JSor the march, neither the extent nor direction of which was known. 

Mess kits were overhauled, and fresh supplies of coflee, sugar, flour, and the 
other articles which go to supply the soldier's larder, were laid in. Blan- 
kets were carefully rolled so as to occupy as little space as possible; every use- 
less pound of luggage was discarded, for in making a rnpid pursuit after In- 
dians, much of the success depends upon the lightness of the order of march. 
Saratoga trunks and their accompaniments are at a discount. Never was the 
old saying that in Rome one must do as Romans do more aptly illustrated than 
on an Indian campaign. The Indian, knowing that his safety either on oifensive 
or defensive movements depends in a great measure upon the speed and endur- 
ance of his horse, takes advantage of every circumstance which will favor 
either the one or the other. To this end he divests himself of all superfluous dress 
and ornament when preparing for rnpid movements. The white man, if he hopes 
for success, must adopt the same rule of action, and encumber his horse as little 
as possible. Somethingbesides well-filled mess chests and carefully rolled blank- 
ets is necessary in preiiaring for an Indian campaign. Arms must be reex° 
amined, cartridge-boxes refilled, so that each man should carry about one hun- 
dred rounds of ammimition " on his jierson," while each troop commander must 
see that in the company wagon there are placed a few boxes of reserve am- 
munition. Then, when the equipment of the soldier has been attended to, his 
horse, without whose assistance he is helpless, must be looked after; loose 
shoes are tightened by the driving of an additional nail, and to accomplish 
fliis one may see the company blacksmith, a soldier, with the few simple 
tools of his kit on the ground beside him, hurriedly fiistening the last shoe 
by the uncertain light of a candle held in the hands of the rider of the hoi'se, 
their mutual labor being varied at times by queries as to " How long shall we 
be gone?" "I wonder if Ave Avill catch Mr. Lo?" "If we do, we'll make 
it lively for him." So energetic had everybody been that before daylight 
everything was in readiness for the start. In addition to the regularly organ- 
ized companies of soldiers which made up the pursuing column, I had Avith 
me a detachment of white scouts or Plainsmen, and one of friendly IndianSj 
the latter belonging to the trilje of Delawares, once so famous in Indian wars. 
Of the Indi.ans one only could speak English ; he acted as interi:)rcter for the 
party. Among the white scouts were numbered some of the most noted of 
their class. The most prominent man among them was "Wild Bill," whose 
highly varied career Avas made the subject of an illustrated sketch in one of 
the popular monthly periodicals a few years ago. " Wild Bill " was a strange 
character, just the one which a novelist might gloat over. He Avas a Plains- 
man in every sense of the word, yet unlike any other of his class. In person 
he was about six feet one in height, straight as the straightest of the warriors 
whose implacable foe he was; broad shoulders, well-formed chest and limbs. 



34 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

and a face strikingly lianilsome; a sharp, clear, blue eye, which stared yo;i 
straight in the f:iee when in conversation ; a finely-sliaped nose, inclined to be 
aquiline ; a well-turned mouth, with lips only partially concealed by a handsome 
moustache. His hair and complexion were those of the perfect blond. The 
former was worn in uncut ringlets falling carelessly over his powerfully formed 
shoulders. Add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatness 
of the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of the frontiersman, and 
you have Wild Bill, then as now the most ftimous scout on the Plains. Whether 
on foot or on horseback, he was one of the most perfect types of physical nian- 
liood I ever saw. Of his courage there could be no question; it had been 
brought to the test on too many occasions to admit of a doubt. His skill in the 
xise of the rifle and pistol was unerring; while his deportment Avas exactly the 
oijposite of what might be expected from a man of his surroundings. It 
was entirely free from all bluster or bravado. He seldom spoke of himself 
unless requested to do so. His conversation, strange to say, never bordered 
either on the vulgar or blasphemous. His influence among the frontiersmen 
was unbounded, his word was law; and many are the personal quarrels and 
disturbances which he has checked among his comrades by his simple an- 
nouncement that " this has gone far enough," if need lie followed by the ominous 
warning that when jiersisted in or renewed the quarreller " must settle it with 
me." " Wild Bill " is anything but a quarrelsome man ; 3'et no one but him- 
self can enumerate the many conflicts in which he has been engaged, and Avhich 
have almost invariably resulted in the death of his adversary. I have a per- 
sonal knowledge of at least half a dozen men whom he has at various times 
killed, one of these being at the time a member of my command. Others have 
been severely wounded, yet he always escapes xmhurt. On the Plains every 
man openly carries his belt with its invariable appendages, knife and revolver, 
often two of the latter. Wild Bill always carried two handsome ivory-handled 
I'evolvers of the large size ; he was never seen without them. Where this is 
the common custom, brawls or personal difficulties are seldom if ever settled 
by blows. The quarrel is not from a word to a blow, but from a word to the 
r.evolver, and he who can draw and fire first is the best man. No civil law reaches 
him; none is applied for. In fact there is no law recognized beyond the fron- 
.tier but that of " might makes right." Should death result from the quarrel, 
as it usually does, no coroner's jury is impanelled to learn the cause of death, 
and the survivor is not arrested. But instead of these old-fashioned proceed- 
ings, a meeting of citizens takes place, the survivor is reqiicsled to be present 
when the circumstances of the homicide are inquired into, and the unfailing 
verdict of "Justifiable," "self-defence," etc., is pronounced, .and the law 
stsxnds vindicated. That pistice is often deprived o a victim there is not 
a doubt. Yet in all of the many affiiirs of this kind in which " Wild Bill " has 
pevformed a pait, and which have come to my knowledge, there is not a 
single ;nst:vtjce in which the verdict of twelve fair-minded men would not 
be pronounced in his favor. That the even tenor of his way continues to 
be disturbed bylittle evcfits of this dc-£<!ription may be inferred from an item 
which has been floating Litely through the columns of the press, and which 
states tliat "the fun.e.r;il,Qf.'Jim Bludsp,' who was killed the other day by 
'Wild Bill,' tooli place to-day." It then adds: "The funeral expenses were 
bor;je by •' Wild Bill.' " What could be more thoughtful than this? Not only 
to send a feilow mortal out of the world, but to pay the expenses of the 
transit. Gueriw, the half-breed, also accompanied the expedition as guide 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 35 

Everj-tliing being in readiness to move, the column began its march, and 
reached the vicinity of the village before day had fully daAvned. Here a 
brief halt was necessarj-, until the light was sufficient to enable our scouts to 
discover the trail of the Indians. Wlien they finally set to discover this, their 
method was highly interesting, and resembled not a little the coui'se of a 
thorough sportsman, who, with a well-trained pointer or setter, thoroughly 
" ranges " and " beats " the gi'ouud in search of his coveted game. The Indians had 
set out on their flight soon after dark the preceding night; a heavy frost covered 
the ground and rendered it difficult to detect the trail from tlie many pony 
tracks which are always fcnmd in the A^cinity of a village. We began to gi'ow 
impatient at the delay, when one of the Indians gave the '* halloo " as the signal 
that the trail was discovered, and again the column marched forward. Our 
order of march was for the Indian and white scouts to keep a few hundred 
paces in advance of the troops, so that momentary delays upon the part of 
those watcliing and following the trail should not extend to the troops. The 
Indians on leaving the village had anticipated pursuit and had adopted meas- 
ures to mislead us. In order to prevent their trail from being easily recogniz- 
able, they had departed in as many detachments or parties almost as there 
were families or lodges in the village, each party taking a different direction 
from the others, having personally agi'eed, of course, upon the general direction 
and place of reuniting. Once being satisfied that we were on the right trivil, 
no difficulty was found in following it as rapidly as our horses could walk. 
The Indians had nearly twelve hours the start of us, but being encumbered by 
their families, we hoped to overhaul them before many days. Our first ol)sta- 
cle was encountered when Ave struck Walnut creek, a small stream running 
east and west some thirty miles north of the Arkansas at that point. The 
banks Avere so high and abrupt that it was impossible to reach the AA'ater's edge, 
let alone clamber up tlie opposite bank. A fcAV of the Indians had been al)le to 
accomplish this feat, as Avas shown by the tracks on the opposite side ; but the 
main band had moved up stream in search of a favorable crossing, and Ave Avere 
compelled to do likewise. Here we found that the Indians had called a halt, 
built fires, and cooked their breakfast. So I'apidly had Ave gained upon them 
that the fires Avere burning freshly, and the departure of the Indians had been 
so alirupt that they left sevei'al ponies Avitli their packs tied to trees. One of 
the packs belonged to a famous chief, " Roman Nose," Avho Avas one of those 
Avho met us at the grand gathering just before Ave reached their village a fcAV 
days before. One of our DelaAvares who made the capture was very j^roiid 
of the success, and was soon seen ornamenting his head-dress Avith the bright 
crimson feathers taken from the wardrobe of " Roman Nose." Encouraged 
by our progress, we continued tlie pursuit as rapidly as a due regard for our 
horses AA'ould permit. Thus far, neither myself nor any of the soldiers had 
caught sight of any Indians ; but our DelaAA^are scouts, Avho were constantly 
in the advance and on our flanks, taking ad\'antage of the bluffs to reconnoitre, 
frequently reported that they saAV small parties of Indians observing our move- 
ments from a distance. From positive evidences, familiar to those accustomed 
to the Plains, Ave AA'^ere convinced that Ave AA'ere rapidly gaining upon the In- 
dians. The earth upturned by the feet of their ponies and by the ends of the 
trailing lodge-poles, Avas almost as damp and fresh as that disturbed by the 
horses of the command. Soon aa^c discovered additional signs of encourage- 
ment. The route noAV became strcAA^n Avith various lodge-poles and other ob- 
stacles peculiar to an Indian's outfit, sliowing that they Avere " lightening up" 



30 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

so as to facilitate their escape. So certain did we feel of our ability to out-trail 
them, that the only question now was one which has often determined the suc- 
cess of military operations. Would darkness intervene to disapjjoint us? We 
must imitate the example of the Indians, and disembarrass ourselves of every- 
thing tending to retard our speed. The troops would march much faster, if 
permitted to do so, than the rate at which our wagons had forced themselves 
along. It was determined to leave the wagons, under escort of one squadron, 
to follow our trail as rajjidly as they could, while the other three squach'ons 
pushed on in pursuit. Should darkness settle clown before overtaking the In- 
dians, the advantage was altogether against us, as Ave would be compelled to 
await daylight to enable us to follow the trail, while the Indians were free to 
continue their flight, sheltered and aided by die darkness. By three o'clock 
p. M. we felt that we were almost certain to accomplish our purpose. No ob- 
stiicle seemed to stand in our way; tlie trail Avas broad and plain, and appar- 
ently as fresh as our own. A half hour, or an hour at furthest, seemed only 
necessaiy to enable us to dash in upon our wily enemy. Alas for human cal- 
culations! The Indians, by means of the small reconnoitring parties ob- 
served by our scouts, had kept themselves constantly informed regarding our 
movements and progi'ess. They had first risked their safety upon the superior 
speed and endurance of their ponies — a safe reliance when favored by the 
grass season, but in winter this advantage was on our side. Failing in their 
first resource, they had a second and better method of eluding us. So long as 
they kept united and moved in one body, their trail Avas as plainly to be ?.een 
and as easily followed as if made by a lieavily-lad'en Avagon train. We Avere 
not called upon to employ time and great Avatchfulness on the part of our 
scouts tf) follow it. But Avhen it was finally clear to be seen that, in the race 
as it Avas then being run, the Avhite man Avas sure to Avin, the proverbial 
cunning of the red man came to his rescue and thAvarted the plans of his i^ur- 
suers. Again dividing his tribe, as Avhen first setting out from the village, into 
numerous small parties, Ave Avere discouraged by seeing the broad well-beaten 
trail suddenly separate into hundreds of indistinct routes, leading fan-shape in 
as many different directions. What Avas to be done? 

The general direction of the main trail, before dissolving into so many small 
ones, had been nearly' north, shoAving that if undisturbed in their flight the In- 
dians Avould strike the Smoky Hill overland route, cross it, then pursue their 
way nortliAvard to the headwaters of the Solomon or Republican river, or fiu-- 
ther still, to the Platte river. Selecting a central trail, Ave continued om- ])iu-- 
suit, now being compelled often to halt and verify our course. The ti-ail gi-ad- 
ually gi-CAV smaller and smaller, until by fiA^e o'clock it had become so faint as 
to be folloAved Avith the gi-eatest difliculty. We had been marching exactly 
twelve hours Avithoiit halting, except to Avater our horses. Reluctantly Ave 
were forced to go into canij) and aAvait the assistance of daylight. The Dela- 
ware scouts continued the i^ui-suit six miles further, but returned Avithout ac- 
complishing anything. The Indians, after dividing up into small parties, kept 
up communication with each other by means of columns of signal smoke. 
These signal smokes Avere to be seen to the Avest, north, and east of us, but 
none nearer than ten miles. They only proved to us that Ave Avere probably 
on the trail of the main body, as the fires Avere in front and on both sides of us. 
We had marched over thirty-five miles Avithout a halt. Tlie Delawares having 
determined the direction of the trail for six miles, Ave Avould be able next 
morning to continue that far at least unaided by daylight. Our wagons over 



MY LIFE ON TILE PLAINS. 37 

took us a few hours after we reached camp. Reveille Avas sounded at two 
o'clock the next niornuig:, and four o'clock found us again in the saddle, and 
following the guidance of our friendly Delawares. The direction of our march 
took us up the valley and almost dry bed of a small stream. The Delawares 
thought we might find where the Indians had encamped during the night, by 
following the upward course of the stream, but in this we were dis:ippointe<l. 
The trail became more and more indistinct, until it was lost in the barrea 
waste over which we were then moving. To add to our annoj-ance, the water- 
course had become entirely dry, and our guides were uncertain as to whetlier 
water could be procured in one day's march in any direction excej^t that from 
which we had come. We were, therefore, forced to countermarch after reach- 
ing a point thirteen miles from our starting-place in the morning, and retrace 
our steps until the uncertain stream in whose valley we then Avere would give 
us water enough for our wants. 

Here I Avill refer to an incident entirely personal, which came very near 
costing me my life. When leaving our camp that morning I felt satisfied that 
the Indians, having travelled at least a portion of the night, were then many 
miles in advance of us, and there was neither danger nor j^robability of en- 
countering any of them near the column. We Avere then in a magnificent 
game countiy, buffalo, antelope, and smaller game being in abundance on all 
sides of us. Although an ardent sportsman, I had never hunted the buffalo up 
to this time, consequently Avas exceedingly desirous of tasting of its excite- 
ment. I had several fine English greyhounds, Avhose speed I Avas anxious to 
test with that of the antelope, said to be — AAdiich I believe — the fleetest of ani- 
mals. I was mounted on a fine large thoroughbred horse. Taking with me 
but one man, the chief bugler, and calling my dogs around me, I galloped 
ahead of the column as soon as it Avas daylight, for the purpose of having a 
chase after some antelope Avhich could be seen grazing nearly tAvo miles dis- 
tant. That such a course Avas rashly imprudent I am ready to admit. A stir- 
ring gallop of a fcAV minutes brought me near enough to the antelope, of AA'hich 
there Avere a dozen or more, to enable the dogs to catch sight of them. Then 
the chase began, the antelope running in a direction which took us away from 
the command. By availing myself of the turns in the course, I Avas able to 
keep Avell in vicAV of the exciting chase, until it Avas evident that the antelope 
Avere in no danger of being caught by the dogs, Avhich latter had become bloAvn 
from want of proper exercise. I succeeded in calling them off, and AA'as about to 
set out on my return to the column. The horse of the chief buo-ler, beino" a 
common-bred animal, failed early in the race, and his rider Avisely concluded to 
regain the command, so that I Avas alone. How for I had travelled from the 
troops I Avas trying to determine, when I discovered a large, dai-k-lookino; ani- 
mal grazing nearly a mile distant. As yet I had never seen a Avild buffalo, but 
I at once recognized this as not only a buffalo, but a very large one. Here Avas 
my opportunity. A ravine near by Avould enable me to approach unseen until 
almost Avithin pistol range of my game. Calling my dogs to follow me, I 
sloAvly pursued the course of the ravine, giving my horse opportunity to gather 
himself for the second run. When I emerged from the ravine I was still sev- 
eral hundred yards from the buffalo, Avliich almost instantly discovered me, and 
set off as fast as his legs could carry him. Had my h(jrse been fresh the race 
would have been a short one, but the preceding long run had not been Avitli- 
out effect. How long or how fast Ave flew in pursuit, the intense excitement 
of the chase prevented me from knoAving. I only kneAV that even the grey- 



38 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

hounds were left behind, until finally my good steed placed himself and me 
close alongside the game. It may l^e because this was the first I had seen, but 
surely of the hundreds of thousands of buffaloes which I have since seen, none 
have corresponded with him in size and lofty grandeur. My lioi-se was above 
the average size, yet tlie buti'alo towered even above him. I had carried my 
revolver in my hand from the moment the x'ace began. Rejjeatedly could I 
have placed the muzzle against the shaggy body of the huge beast, by whose 
side I fairly yelled with wild exciteujcut and delight, yet each time would I 
withdrawn the weapon, as if to prolong the enjoyment of the race. It was a 
race for life or death, yet how different tiie award from what could be imagined. 
Still we sped over the springy turf, tlie high breeding and mettle of my horse 
being plainly visible over that of the huge beast that struggled by his side. 
Mile after mile was traversed in this way, until the I'ate and distance began to 
tell perceptibly on the bison, whose protruding tongue and labored breatliing 
})lainly betraj'ed his distress. Determined to end the chase and bring down 
my game, I again placed the muzzle of the revolver close to the body of the 
buttalo, Avhen, as if divining my intention, and feeling his inaliilitj' to escape by 
flight, he suddenly determined to fight, and at once wheeled, as only a buffalo 
can, to gore my horse. So sudden Avas this movement, and so sudden was the 
corresponding veering of my horse to avoid the attack, that to retain my con- 
trol over him I hastily brought up my pistol hand to the assistance of the other. 
Unfortunately as I tlid so my finger, in the excitement of the occasion, pressed 
the tris^ger, discharged the pistol, and sent tiie fatal l^all into the verj' brain of 
the noble animal I rode. Running at full sjieed he fell dead in the course of 
his leap. Quick as thought I disengaged myself from the stirrups and found 
myself whirling through the air over and beyond the head of m)' horse. My 
only thought, as I was describing this trajectory, and my first thought on reach- 
ing terra Jinna, was, "What Avill the l)uffalo do with me?" Although at 
first inclined to rush upon me, my strange procedure seemed to astonisli him. 
Either that, or pity for the utter he]j)lessness of my condition, inclined him to 
alter his course and leave me alone to my own bitter reflections. 

In a moment the danger into wiiioh I had unluckily brought myself stood 
out in bold relief before me. Under ordinary circumstances the death of my 
horse would have been serious enough. I was strongly attached to him ; had 
ridden him in battle during a portion of the late war; yet now his death, except 
in its consequences, was scared}^ thought of. Here I was, alone in the lieart 
of the Indian country, with warlike Indians known to lie in the vicinity. I was 
not familiar with the country. IIow far I had travelled, or in what direction 
from the column, I was at a loss to know. In the excitement of the chase I 
had lost all reckoning. Indians were liable to jjounce upon mc at any mo- 
ment. My command would not note my absence probably for hours. Two of 
my dogs overtook me, and with mute glances first at the dead steed, then at me, 
seemed to inquire tlie cause of this sti-ange condition of affairs. Their instinct 
a))pearcd to tell thcnn that Ave Avere in misfortune. AVhile I Avas deliberating 
what to do, the dogs became uneasy, Avhincd pitcously, and seemed eager to 
leave the spot. In this desire I sympathized Avith them, but Avhither should 1 
go? I observed that tlieir eyes Avere generally turned in one particular direc- 
tion; this I accepted as my cue, and with one parting look at my horse, and 
grasping a revolver in each hnnd, I set out on my imcertain journey. As long 
as the body of my horse Avas visible above the horizon, I kept referring to it as 
my guiding i)oint, and in this way contrived to preserve my direction. This re- 



MY LIFE O^ THE PLAINS. 39 

source soon fniled ine, and I then had recourse to weeds, buffalo skulls, or any 
two objects I could lind on my line of march. Constantly my eyes kejjt scan- 
ninfj the horizon, each moment expecting, and with reason too, to find myself 
discovered by Indians. 

I had travelled in this manner what seemed to me about three or four miles, 
when far ahead in the distance I saw a column of dust rising. A hasty exam- 
ination soon convinced me that the dust was produced by one of three causes : 
white men, Indians, or buffalo. Two to one in my favor at any rate. Select- 
ing a ravine where I could crawl away undiscovered should the approaching 
body prove to be Indians, I called my dogs to my side and concealed mj^self as 
well as I could to await developments. The object of my anxious solicitude 
was still several miles distant. Whatever it was, it was approaching in my di- 
rection, as was plainly discernible from the inci'easing columns of dust. For- 
tunately I iiad m'y field-glass slung across my shoulder, and if Indians I could 
discover them before they could possibly discover me. Soon I was able to see 
the heads of mounted men running in irregular order. This discovery shut 
out the probability of their being buffaloes, and simplified the question to white 
men or Indians. Never during the war did I scan an enemy's battery or ap- 
proaching column with half the anxious care with which I watched the party 
then approaching me. For a long time nothing satisfactory could be deter- 
mined, until my eye caught sight of an object Avhich, high al)ove the heads of 
the approaching riders, told me in unmistakable terms that friends were ap- 
proaching. It was the cavalry guidon, and never was the sight of stars and 
stripes more welcome. My comrades were greatly surprised to find me seated 
on the gi'ound alone and without my horse. A few words explained all. A 
detachment of my men, following my direction, found my horse and returned 
with the saddle and other equipments. Another horse, and Richard was him- 
self again, jilus a little valuable experience, and minus a valuable horse. 

In retracing our steps later in the day, in search of Avater sufiicient for 
camping purposes, we marched over nine miles of our morning route, and at 
two r. M. of April 16 we went into camp. From this point I wrote a despatch 
to General Ilancock and sent it back by two of my scouts, Avho set out on their 
journey as soon as it was dark. It was determined to push on and reach the 
Smoky Hill route as soon as possible, and give the numerous stage stations 
along that route notice of the presence of warlike Indians. This was before 
tlie Pacific Railroad or its branches had crossed the Plains. Resting our ani- 
mals from two until seven p. m., we were again in the saddle and setting out 
for a night march, our only guide being the north star. We hoped to strike 
the stage route near a point called Downie's Station. After riding all night 
we reached and crossed about daylight the Smoky Hill river, along whose 
valley the stage route runs. The stations were then from ten to fifteen miles 
apart; if Indians had crossed this line at any point the station meuAvouldbe 
informed of it. To get information as to this, as well as to determine 
where we were, an officer with one company was at once despatched on this 
mission. This party had scarcely taken its departure and our pickets 
been posted, before the entire command of tired, sleepy cavalrymen, scouts, 
and Delawares had thrown themselves on the ground and were wrapped in 
tlie deepest slmuber. We had slept perliajis an hour or more, yet it seemed 
but a few moments, when an alarm shot from the lookout and the startling 
cry of "Indians!" brought the entire command under arms. 



V. 



ALTHOUGH in search of Indians and supposed to be always prepared to 
encounter them, yet the warning shot of the sentry, followed as it was 
by his cry of "Indians!" could not but produce the greatest excitement in 
camp. Where all had been quiet before — men sleeping and resting after their 
long night march, animals grazing unsuspectingly in the midst of the wagons 
and tents which thickly dotted the Plain here and there — all was now bustle 
if not confusion. Herders and teamsters ran to their animals to conduct them 
inside the limits of camp. The troopers of one platoon of each company hast- 
ened to secure the cavalry horses and provide against a stampede, while 
those of the remaining platoons were rapidly marshalled under arms by their 
trooj? officers, and advanced in the direction from which the lookout reported 
the enemy to be approaching. 

All this required but a few moments of time. Recovering from the first 
shock of surprise, we endeavored, one and all, to discover the number and pur- 
pose of the foes who had in so unceremonious a manner disturbed our much- 
needed slumbers. 

Daylight had just dawned, but the sun was not yet high enough to render a 
satisfictory view of the country possible. This difficulty was aggravated, too, 
by a dull heavy mist, which hung like a curtain near the horizon. Yet in spite 
of all these olistructions we could clearly perceive, at a distance of perhaps a 
mile, the dim outlines of numerous figures — horsemen evidently — approaching 
om* camp, not as if simply on the march, but in battle array. First came a de- 
ployed line of horsemen, followed in rear, as we could plainly see, by a reserve, 
also mounted and moving in compact order. 

It required no practised eye to comprehend that be they who or what they 
might, the parties advancing in this i^recise and determined manner upon us 
were doing so witli hostile purpose, and evidently intended to charge into our 
camp unless defeated in their purpose. No time was to be lost. Dispositions to 
meet the coming attack were rapidly made. To better observe the move- 
ments and determine the strength of the aijproaching parties, an officer 
ascended the knoll occupied by the lookout. 

We had often heard of the high perfection of some of the Indian tribes in 
military evolutions and discipline, but here we saw evidences Avliich went far 
to convince us that the red man was not far behind his more civilized brother 
in the art of war. Certainly no troops of my command could have advanced a 
skirmish line or moved a reserve more accurately than was done in our pres- 
ence that morning. 

As yet we liad no means of determining to what ti'ibe the attacking party 
belonged. We were satisfied they must be either Sioux or Cheyennes, or both; 
in either case Ave shoidd encounter troublesome foes. But for the heavy mist 
we could have comprehended everything. Soon we began receiving reports 
from the officer who had ascended the lookout. First, there were not more 
,than eighty horsemen to be seen. This number we could easily dispose of. 
Next, the attacking parties seemed to have changed their plan ; a halt was 
ordered, and two or three horsemen seemed to be advancing to the front !<s if 
to parlej'-, or reconnoitre our position. Then the skirmishers were suddenly 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 41 

witlulrawn .iikI united with the reserve, when the entire party wheeled about 
and began to move oti". Tliis was mystifying in the extreme, but a couple of 
young cavalry ofiicers leaped into their saddles and taking a few mounted 
troopers with them dashed after our late enemies, determined to learn more 
about them than they seemed willing wc should. 

A brisk gallop soon cleared away the mystery, and furnished another proof of 
the deceptive effects produced by the atmosphere on the Plains. Those who have 
read the preceding article Avill remember that at the termination of the night 
march which brought us to our present camp, an pfficer was despatched witli one 
troop of cavalry to lind the nearest stage station on the overland route, near which 
we knew we must then be. Our camp lay on the Smoky Hill river. The stage 
route, better known as the " Smi)ky Hill route," was known to be but a few miles 
north of us. To determine our exact locality, as we had been marching by com- 
pass over a wild country and in the night-time, and to learn something regarding 
the Indians, this ofl5.cer was sent out. He was selected for this service because 
of his professed experience on and knowledge of the Plains. He had set out 
from our camp an hour or more before daylight, but losing his bearings had 
marched his command in a semicircle until daylight found him on tlie side of 
om* camp opposite that from which he had departed. The conical Sibley tent 
used in my command, resembling the Indian lodge from which it was taken, 
Seen through the peculiar and uncertain moi'ning atmosphere of that region, 
had presented to his eyes and to those of his men the appearance of an Indian 
village. The animals grazing about ()ur camp might well have been taken for 
the ponies of the Indians. Besides, it was well known that large encampments 
of Indians were in the part of the country over which we were marching. 
The bewilderment of this detachment, then, was not surprising considering the 
attending circumstances. Had the officer in command been young and inex- 
perienced, his mishap might have been credited to tliese causes ; but here was 
an officer who had grown gray in the service, familiar with the Plains and with 
Indians, yet so completely misled by appearances as to mistake his camp, 
which he had left but an hour before, for an Indian village. 

Few officers laboring under tlie same impression would have acted so cred- 
itably. He and his men imagined they had discovered the camp of the Indians 
whom we had been pursuing, and although believing their enemies outnum- 
bered them ten to one, j'ct their zeal and earnestness prompted them, instead 
of sending to their main camp for reinforcements, thereby losing valuable time 
and probable opportunities to effect a surprise, to make a dash at once into tlie 
village. And it was only the increasing light of day that enal)led them to dis- 
cover their mistake and saved us from a charge from our own troopers. This 
little incident will show how necessary experienced professional guides are in 
connection with all military movements on the Plains. It was a long time be- 
fore the officer who had been so unlucky as to lose his way heard the last of 
it from his brother officers. 

The remainder of his mission was completed more successfully. Aided by 
dayliglit, and moving nearly due north, he soon struck the well-tra-\'^lled over- 
land route, and from the frightened employes at the nearest station he ob- 
tained intelligence which confirmed our worst feai's as to the extent of the In- 
dian outbreak. Stage stations at various points along the route had been at- 
tacked and burned, and the inmates driven off or murdered. All travel across 
the Plains was suspended, and an Indian war with all its barbarities had been 
forced upon the people of the frontier. 



43 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

As soon as tlie officer ascertaining tliese facts bad returned to camp and 
made his report, the entire command was again put in motion and started in 
the direction of the stage route, with tiie intention of clearing it of strao'glino' 
bands of Indians, reopening the main line of travel across the Plains, and es- 
tal)lishing if jjossible upon tlie proper tribes the responsibility for the numei'ous 
outrages recently committed. The stage stations were erected at poi»ts along 
tlie route distant from each other from ten to fifteen miles, and were used sole- 
ly for the shelter and accommodation of tlie relaj's of drivers and horses em- 
ploj'ed on the stage route. We found, in passing over the route on our east- 
ward march, that only about every fourth station was occupied, the occupants 
of the other three having congregated there for mutual defence against the In- 
dians, the latter having burned the deserted stations. 

Fi'om tlie emploj-es of the company at various points we learned thnt for 
the few preceding days the Indians had been crossing the line, going toward 
the north in large bodies. In some places we saw the ruins of the l)urned 
stations, but it was not until we reached Lookout Station, a point about fifteen 
miles west of Fort Hays, that we came upon the first real evidences of an In- 
dian outbreak. Hiding some distance in advance of the command, I reached 
tlie station only to find it and the adjacent buildings in ashes, the ruins still 
smoking. Near by I discovered the bodies of the three station-keepers,, so 
mangled and burned as to be scarcely recognizable as human beings. The In- 
dians had evidently tortured them before putting an end to their sufierings. 
They were scalped and horribly disfigured. Their bodies were badly burned, 
but whether before or after death could not be determined. No arrow, or 
other article of Indian manufacuture, could be found to positively determine what 
liarticnlar tribe was the guilty one. The men at other stations had recognized 
some of the Indians passing as belonging to the Sioux and Cheyennes, tlie 
same we had jjassed from the village on Pawnee Fork. 

Continuing our march, we reached Fort llaj-s, from which point I des- 
imtched a report to General Hancock, on the Arkansas, furnishing him all the 
information I had gained concerning the outrages and movements of the In- 
dians. As it has been a question of considerable disi)ute between the respective 
ailvocates of the Indian peace and war policy, as to which party committed the 
first overt act of war, the Indians or General Hancock's command, I quote from 
a letter on the suliject written by Major-General Hancock to Genei-al Gi'ant, in 
rcj^ly to a letter of inquiry from the latter when commanding the armies of the 
United States. General Hancock saj'S : 

"When I learned from General Custer, who investigated these matters on 
the spot, that directly after they had aliandoned the villages they attacked and 
burned a mail station on the Smoky Hill, killed the white men at it, disem- 
b(j\velled and burned them, fireil into another station, endeavored to gain ad- 
mittance to a third, fired on my expressmen both on tlie Smoky Hill and on 
their way to Larned, I concluded that this must be war, and therefore deemed 
it my duty to take the fii'st opportunity which i^resented to resent these hostil- 
ities and outrages, and did so by destroying theh* villages." 

The first paragi-aph of General Hancock's si^ecial field order directing the 
destruction of the Indian A'illage read as follows : 

"II. As a punishment for the bad faith practised by tlie Cheyennes and 
Sioux who occupied the Indian village at this i^lace, and as a chastisement for 
murders and depredations committed since the ai'rival of the command at thi» 
point, by the people of these tribes, the village recently occupied by them, 
which is now in our hands, will be utterly destroj-ed." 




SAT ANT A. SECOND CHIEF OF THE KIOWA S. 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 43 

From these extracts the question raised can be readily settled. This act of 
retribution on the part of General Hancock was the signal for an extensive pen 
and ink war, directed against hina and his forces. This was to 1)6 expected. 
The pecuniary loss and dt^privation of opportunities to speculate in Indian 
commodities, as practised bj' most Indian agents, were too great to be sub- 
mitted to without a murmur. The Clieyennes, Arrapahoes, and Apaches had 
been united under one agency; the Kiowas and Comanches under another. 
As General Hancock's expedition had reference to all of these tribes, he had 
extended invitations to each of the two agents to accompany him into the In- 
dian country, and be present at all interviews with the representatives of these 
respective tribes, for the purpose, as the invitation states, of showing the In- 
dians " that the officers of the Government are acting in harmony." 

These agents were both present at Genei'al Hancock's headquarters. Both 
admitted to General Hancock in conversation that Indians had been guilty of 
all the outrages charged against them, but each asserted the innocence of the 
Ijarticu^ar tribes under his charge, and endeavored to lay their crimes at the 
door of their neighbors. The agent of the Kiowas and Comanches declared to 
the department commander that "the tribes of his agency liad been grossly 
wronged by having been charged with various oftences which had undoubtedly 
been committed by the Cheyennes, Arrapahoes, and Apaches, and that these 
tribes deserved severe and summary chastisement for their numerous misdeeds, 
verj^ many of which had been laid at the doors of his innocent tribes." 

Not to be outdone in the profuse use of fair words, however, the agent of 
the three tribes thus assailed informed General Hancock th;it his tlu'ee triljes 
" were peacefully inclined, and rarely committed offences against the laws, but 
that most unfortunately they were charged in many instances with crimes 
wdiich had been pei'petrated by other tribes, and that in this respect they had 
suffered heavily from the Kiowas, who were the most turbulent Indians of the 
Plains, and deserved punishment more than any others." 

Here was positive evidence from the agents themselves that the Indians 
against whom we were operating were guilty, and deserving of severe jjun- 
i^-hment. The only conflicting portion of the testimony was as to which tribe 
was most guilty. Subsequent events proved, however, that •'.V. of tlu; fivri 
tribes named, as well as the Sioux, had combined for a goneiai war througUout 
the Plains and along our frontier. Such a war had beesi threatened to our 
post commanders along the Arkansas on manj' occasions during the winter. 
Tlie movement of tlie Sioux and Cheyennes toward the north indicated that the 
principal theatre of military operations during the summer would be between 
the Smoky Hill and Platte rivers. General Hancock 'accordingly assembled 
the principal chiefs of the Kiowas and Arrapahoes in council at Fort Dodge, 
hoping to induce them to remain at peace and observe their treaty obligations. 

The most prominent chiefs in council were Satanta, Lone Wolf, and Kiek- 
ing Bird of the Kiowas, and Little Raven and Yellow Bear of the Arrai^ahoes. 
During the council extravagant promises of future good conduct were made by 
tliese chiefs. So effective and convincing was the oratorical effort of Satanta, 
that at the termination of his address the department commander and staff" 
jn-esented him with the uniform coat, sash, and hat of a major-genei-al. In re- 
turn for this compliment Satanta, within a few weeks after, attacked the post at 
Avhich the council was held, arrayed in his new uniform. This said chief had 
but recentlj' headed an expedition to the frontier of Texas, where, among other 
murders committed by him and his band, was that known as the "Box massa- 



44 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

ere." Tlie Box fumilj- consisted of the fjitlier, mother, and five cliildren, the 
eldest a gh'l about eighteen, the youngest a babe. The entire family had been 
visiting at a neighbor's house, and were returning home in the evening, little 
dreaming of the terrible fate imi^ending, when Satanta and his warriors dashed 
iipou them, surrounded the wagon in which they were driving, and at the first 
fire killed the father and one of the children. The horses were hastily taken 
from the wagon, while the mother was informed by signs that she and her four 
stu'viving children must accompany their cajitors. Mounting their prisoners 
upon led horses, of which they had a great number stolen from the settlers, 
the Indians prejxxred to set out on their return to the village, then located hun- 
dreds of miles north. Before departing from the scene of the massacre, the 
savages scalped the father and child, who had fallen as their first victims. Far 
better would it have been had the remaining members of the family met their 
death in the first attack. From the mother, whom I met when released from 
her captivity, after living as a prisoner in the hands of the Indians for more 
than a year, I gathered the details of the sufferings of herself and children. 

Fearing pursuit by the Texans, and desiring to place as long a distance as 
possible between themselves and their pursuers, they prepared for a night 
march. Mrs. Box and each of the three elder children were placed on sepa- 
rate horses and securely bound. This was to prevent escape in the darkness. 
The mother was at first permitted to carry the youngest child, a babe of a few 
months, in her arms, but the latter, becoming fretful during the tiresome night 
ride, began to cry. The Indians, fearing the sound of its voice might be heard 
by pursuei's, snatched it from its mother's arms and dashed its brains out 
against a tree, then threw the lifeless remains to the ground and continued 
their flight. No halt was made for twenty-four hours, after which the march 
Avas conducted more deliberately. Each night the mother and three children 
were permitted to occupy one shelter, closely guarded by their watchful ene- 
mies. 

After travelling for several days this war party arrived at the point where 
they rejoined their lodges. They were still a long distance from the main vil- 
lage, which was near the Arkansas. Each night the scalp of the father was 
hung up in the lodge occupied by the mother and children. A long and weary 
march over a wild and desolate country brought them to the main village. 
Here the captives found that their most serious troubles were to commence. 
In accordance with Indian custom, upon the return of a successful war party, a 
grand assembly of the tribe took place. The prisoners, captured horses, and 
scalps were brought forth, and the usual ceremonies, terminating in a scalp 
dance, followed. ThcH the division of the spoils was made. The captives 
were apportioned among the various bands composing the tribe, so that when 
the division was completed the mother fell to the possession of one cliief, the 
eldest daughter to th:it of another, the second, a little girl of probably ten 
years, to another, and the youngest, a child of three years, to a fourth. No two 
members of the family were permitted to remain in the same band, but were 
each carried to separate villages, distant from each other several days' march. 
This was done partly to prevent escape. 

No pen can describe the painful tortures of mind and body endured by this 
unfortunate family. They remained as captives in the hands of the Indians 
for more than a year, during wluch time tli6 eldest daughter, a beautiful girl 
just ripening into womanhood, was exposed to a fate infinitelj^ more dreadful 
than death itself. She first fell to one of the principal oliicfs, who, after rob- 
bing her of that which was more precious than life, and forcing her to become 



UY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 45 

the victim of liis brutal lust, bartered her in return for two liorses to another 
chief; he again, after wearj-int^ of her, traded her to a chief of a neigliboring 
band; and in that way this unfortunate girl was passed from one to another of 
lier savage captors, undergoing a life so hoi-ribly brutal that, when meeting her 
upon her release from captivity, one could only wonder how a young girl, nur- 
tured in civilization and possessed of tlie natural refinement and delicacy of 
thouglit which slie exliibited, could have- survived sucli degrading treatment. 

Tlie mother and second daughter fared somewhat better. The youngest, 
however, separated from mother and sisters, and thrown among jjeople totally 
devoid of all kind feeling, spent the time in shedding bitter tears. This so en- 
raged the Indians that, as a punishment as well as preventive, the child was 
seized and the soles of its naked feet exjjosed to tlie flames of tlie lodge fire 
until eveiy portion of the cuticle was burned therefrom. When I saw tliis lit- 
tle girl a year afterward, her feet were from this cause still in a painful and 
unhealed condition. These poor captives were reclaimed from their bondage 
through the efforts of officers of the army, and by the payment of a ransom 
amounting to many hundreds of dollars. 

The facts relating to their cruel treatment were obtained by me directly 
from the mother and eldest daughter immediately after their release, which 
occurred a few montlis prior to the council held with Satanta and other chiefs. 
To prove something of the cliaracter of the Cheyennes, one of tlie principal 
tribes with which we were at war, I will give the following extract from an 
ofticial communication addressed by me to General Hancock prior to the sur- 
render of the little Indian boy of whom mention was made in a former article. 
My recommendation was not deemed practicable, as it had been promised by 
us in treaty stipulation to return tlie boy unconditionallj'. 

" Having learned that a boy belonging to the Clieyenne trilje of Indians is 
in the possession of the military authorities, and that it is the intention of the 
Major-General commanding the department to deliver him up to the above- 
named tribe, I would resiDCctfully state that a little white girl aged from four 
to seven years is held captive by the Cheyenne Indians, and is now in the pos- 
session of ' Cut Nose,' a chief of said tribe. 

" The child referred to has been in tlie hands of the Indians a year or more. 
She was captured somewhere in the vicinity of Cache la Poudre, Colorado. The 
l)arents' name is Fletcher. The father escaped Avith a severe wound, the 
mother and two younger children being taken prisoners. The Indians killed 
one of the cliildren outright, and the mother, after subjecting her to tortures too 
horrible to name. 

" The child now held by the Indians was kept captive. An elder daughter 
made her escape and now resides in Iowa. The father resides in Salt Lake 
City. I have received several letters from the father and eldest daughter and 
from friends of both, requesting me to obtain tlie release of the little girl, if pos- 
sible. I would thei'efore request that it be made a condition of the return of the 
Indian boy now in our possession, that the Cheyennes give up the white child 
referred to above." 

This proposition foiling in its object, and the war destroying all means of 
communication with the Indians and scattering the latter over the Plains, 
all trace of the little wliite girl was lost, and to this day nothing is known of 
her fate. At the breaking out of the Indian difficulty " Cut Nose " with his band 
was located along the Smoky Hill route in the vicinity of Monument Station. 
He frequently visited the stage stations for purposes of trade, and was invari- 
ably accompanied by his little captive. I never saw her, but those who did 



4fi MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

represented hor as strikin^xly beautiful; lier complexion beinj^ fair, lier eyes 
blue, and her hair of a bright golden Ime, she presented a marked contrast to 
the Indian children Avho accompanied her. " Cut Nose," from the delicate 
light color of her hair, gave her an Indian name signifying " Little Silver 
Hair." He appeared to treat her with great alloction, and always kept her 
clothed in tlie handsomest of Indian garments. All offers from individuals t<") 
ransom her proved unavailing. Although she had been with the Indians but 
a 3'ear, she spoke the Cheyenne language fluentl}', and seemed to liave no 
knowledge of lier mother tongue. 

The treatment of tlie Box and Fletcher families is not given as isolated in- 
stances, but is referred to principally to show tlie character of the enemy with 
whom we were at war. Volume after volume might be filled in recoimting 
the unprovoked and merciless atrocities committed upon the people of the 
frontier b}- their implacable foe, the red man. It will become necessary, how- 
ever, in making a truthful record of the principal events which transpired 
under my personal observation, to make mention of Indian outrages surpassing 
if possible in savage crueltj'^ any yet referred to. 

As soon as General Hancock had terminated his council witli the Kiowas 
and Arrapahoes, he marched with the remaining portion of the expedition across 
from tlie Arkansas to Fort Hays, where my command was tlien encamped, ar- 
riving there on the third of ]\Iay. Here, owing to the neglect or delaj' of the 
officers of the Quartermaster's Department in forwarding the necessary stores, 
the cavalry was prevented from undertaking any extensive movement, but 
had to content itself for the time being in scouting the adjacent conntr}'. 

Tlie time, however, was well employed in the preparation of men and ani- 
mals for the work which was to be assigned them. Unfortunately, desertions 
from tlie ranks became so frequent and extensive as to cause no little anxiety. 

To protluce these, several causes combined. Prominent among them was 
the insufficiency and inferior quality of the rations furnished the men. At 
times the latter were made the victims of fraud, and it was only by the zealous 
care and watchfulness of the officers immediately over them, that their wants 
were properly attended to. 

Dishonest contractors at the receiving depots further east had been per- 
mitted to i:)erpetrate gross frauds upon the Government, the result of Avliich 
was to produce Avant and suffering among the men. For example, imliroken 
packages of provisions shipped from the main depot of supplies, and which it 
Avas impracticable to replace without loss of time, were when opened discovered 
to contain huge stones for Avhicli the Government had paid so much per pound 
according to contract price. Boxes of bread were shipped and issued to the 
soldiers of my command, tlie contents of Avhich had been baked in 18G1, yet this 
Avas in 1867. It is unnecessary to state that lint little of tliis Ijread Avas eaten, 
yet there Avas none at hand of better qualitj' to replace it. Bad provisions were 
a fruitful cause of bad iiealth. Inactivity led to restlessness and dissatisfaction. 
Scurvy made its appearance, and cholera attacked 'neighboring stations. For 
all these evils desertion became the most popular antidote. To suc-h an ex- 
tent Avas this the case, that in one year one regiment lost l)y desertion alone 
more than half of its effective force. 

General Hancock remained Avith us only a few days before setting out Avith 
the battery for his headquailers at Fort LeavenAvorth. Supplies Avere puslied 
out and every jireparation made for resuming offensive movements against tlie 
Indians. To find employment for the few Avceks Avhich must ensue before 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 47 

breaking up canii? was sometimes a difficult task. To break the monotony and 
give horses and men exercise, builalo hunts were organized, in ■which officers 
and men joined heartily. I know of no better drill for perfecting men in the 
use of firearms on horseback, and thorouglily accustoming them to the saddle, 
tiiau Ijuti'alo-hnnting over a moderately rougli country. No amount of ritling 
luider the Ijest of drill-masters will give that confidence and security in the 
saddle, which will residt from a few spirited charges into a buifalo herd. 

The command, consisting of cavalry alone, was at last in readiness to move. 
Wagons had been loaded with reserve supplies, and we were only waiting the 
gro^Yth of the spring gi'ass to set out on the long mai'ch which had previously 
been arranged. On the first of June, witli about three hundred and fifty men 
and a train of twenty wagons, I left Fort Hays and directed our line of march 
toward Fort AlcPherson, on the Platte river, distant by the proposed route two 
hundred and twent3'-five miles. The friendly Delawares accompanied us as 
scouts and trailex's, but our guide was a young white man known on the 
Plains as " Will Comstock." No Indian knew the country more thoroughly 
than did Comstock. lie was perfectly familiar with every divide, water-course, 
and strij) of timber for hundreds of miles in either direction. He knew tta 
dress and peculiarities of every Indian tribe, and spoke the languages of many 
of them. Perfect in horsemanship, fearless in manner, a splendid hunter, and 
a gentleman by instinct, as modest and unassuming as he was brave, he was 
an interesting as Avell as valuable companion on a march such as was then be- 
fore us. Many were the adventures and incidents of frontier life with which 
he was accustomed to entertain us when around the camp-fire or on the march. 
Little did he then imagine that his own life would soon be given as a sacrifice 
to his daring, and that he, with all his experience among the savages, would 
fall a victim of Indian treachery. 



VI. 



IT had been decided that my command shoukl thoroughly scout the country 
from Fort Hays near the Smoky Hill river, to Fort JVIcPlierson, on t!ie 
Platte; thence describe a semicircle to the southward, touching the head 
waters of the Republican, and again reach the Platte at or near Fort Sedgwick, 
at which post we would replenish our sui^jilies; then move directly sonlh to 
Fort Wallace, on the Smoky Hill, and from there march down the overland 
route to our starting-point at Fort Hays, This would involve a ride of up- 
wards of ohe thousand miles. 

As is usuallj^ the case, the first day's march was not to be a long one. The 
troops, under charge of the officer second in command. Colonel Wicklille 
Cooi)er, left camp and marched up the valley of Big Creek a distance of eigh- 
teen miles, and there encamj^ed. Two companies of cavalry and a small force 
of infantry were to constitute the garrison to remain behind. When the troops 
composing my command left, it became necessary to rearrange the camp and 
provide new dispositions for defence. My wife, who always accompanied me 
when in camp or on the march except wlien I was engaged in active pursuit of 
Indians, had rejoined me soon after my arrival at Fort Hays. She was accom- 
panied by a young ladj" friend from the East, a schoolmate, who had been 
tempted by the novelties of wild Western life to make her a visit in camp. As 
there were other ladies in camp, wives of officers who w^ere to remain with the 
garrison, my wife and friend decided to remain and aw^ait our return, rather 
than go back to the protection and luxuries of civilization. To arrange for 
their comftn'tand superintend the locatingof their tents, I remained behind my 
command, intending to wait until after midnight, and then, guided by the moon- 
light, ride on and overtake my command before it should commence its second 
day's march. I retained with me two soldiers, one scout, and four of the Dela- 
wares. 

As soon as the command moved, the portion to remain at Fort Hays Avas 
drawn in near the few buildings which constituted the fort. All of the cavalry 
and a portion of the infantry were to encamp in the valley and not far from 
the stream. For three-quarters of a mile on either side the vallej' consisted of 
a level unbroken plain ; then a low bluff was encountered, succeeded by a sec- 
ond plain of less extent. This was boidered by a higher and more broken 
bluff than the first. Fortunately, in selecting the ground on which the tents 
intended for the ladies were to stand, I had chosen a little knoll, so small as 
to l)e scarcely perceptible, yd the only elevated ground to be found. It was 
within a few steps of tiie bank of the stream, while the main camp was located 
below and nearer the bluff. For safety a few soldiers were placed in (KSftiip 
a sliort distance above. In ordinary times the banks of Big Creek are at this 
point from twenty-five to forty feet above the water, and a person accustomed 
to the slow and gradual rise and fall which prevails along the beds of streams 
in the Eas'ern States, can witii difficulty realize the suddenness with which the 
deep and narrow channels of watercourses on the Plains become filled to over- 
flowing. In proportion to the surface of the country or the watersheds,' the 
watercourses or channels are few, too few to accommodate the drainage neces- 
sities during the wet season. The bank on Avhich the little knoll stood w;is, by 



MY LIFE ON THE TLAINS. 49 

actual measurement, thirty-six feet above ordinary water mark. The knoll 
was probably three or four feet above the level of tlie valley. Surely this 
location might be considered well enough protected naturally against the 
rainy season. So I thought, as I saw the working party putting the finishing 
touclies to the bright white canvas house, which to all intents and purposes 
was to be to me. even in absence, my army home. 

I confidently expected to return to this camp at the termination of my 
march. I will be pardoned if I anticipate events and terminate its history 
now. A few days after my command had marched, a heavy storm set in, the 
rain pouring down in a manner resembling a waterspout. The immediate 
effect of the heavy shower was not at once noticealile near the camp at Fort 
Hays, as the heaviest rainfall had occurred far above that point. , But in the 
night-time, after the entire camp excejjt the guards had long since retired and 
fallen asleep, the stream, overcharged by the rushing volumes from above, 
soon became ti'ansformed from a mild and murmm'ing brook into an irresisti- 
ble, turbulent torrent. So sudden and unexpected had been the rise, that before 
the alarm could be given the thirty-six feet which had separated tlie surface of 
tlie water from the top of the banks had been overcome, and in addition tlie 
water began now sweeping over the entire plain. After overflowing the nat- 
ural banks of the creek, the first new channel ran in such a manner as to sur- 
round the tents occupied by the ladies as well as that occupied by the few 
soldiers stationed up the stream, but still leaving communication open be- 
tween the main camp and the bluff toward the mainland. The soldiers, as 
well as the officers and their families in the main camp, hastened to the bluft" 
to escape being swept down before the huge torrent which each instant be- 
came more fearful. 

To add to the embarrassment of the situation, the blackest darkness prevailed, 
only relieved at times by vivid gleams of lightning, while the deep sullen roar 
of the torrent, increasing each moment in depth and volume, was only drowned 
at intervals by the fierce and more deafening uproar of the thunder, which 
sounded like the applause of some huge fury watching this struggle betAveen 
the elements. 

Yrhen Mrs. Custer and her young lady companion were awakened by the 
storm, they discovei-ed that their tents were surrounded by the new channel, 
and that all efforts to reach the main camp would prove imavailing. They had 
with them at this time only a colored female servant. They did not even know 
the fate of the other portion of the camp. In the midst of this fearful scene, 
they heard the cries of men in despair near their tent. The cries canie from the 
soldiers who had been in camp above them, but were now being carried off in 
the darkness hy the rising current. No assistance could reach them. It is doubt- 
ful if they could have been saved even had they been found by daylight. Tliere 
wejTte ^ven in all. One of them, as he was being swept by the tent, contrived, 
throng accident no doubt, to gi'asp the branch of a small bush wliich grew on 
the bank. It was from him tli.it the cries of distress princip.ally jiroceeded. 
Aided by the dim light of a camp lantern, the ladies were enalihid to see this 
unfortunate man clinging, as it were, between life and death. With commenda- 
ble pi'esence of mind, considering the fate staring them in the face, a rope wa„s 
procured, and after a few failures one end was tlirown to the unfortunate man, 
and by the united strength of the two ladies and tlieir serv.ant he w.as pulled to 
shore and, for the time being .at le.ast, his life was saved. His six. less fortu- 
nate companions. were drowned. 



50 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

Two of the officers, Brevet Majoi'-General A, J. Smith, and liis Adjutant- 
General, Colonel Weir, with a view to rescuing the ladies, had succeeded in 
making their way across the new channel made by the torrent to the knoll; 
but when attempting to return on horseback to the mainland, the}' found the 
current too deep and swift for them to succ&ed. They were compelled then 
to await their fate. The water continued to rise until the entire valley from 
the natural channel to the first bluff, a distance of a quarter of a mile, was 
covered by an unfordable river. The only point still free from water was 
the little knoll which I had been so fortunate as to select for the tents. But 
the rise in the water continued until it finally reached the edge of the tent. At 
this rate the tents themselves must soon be swej^t away. As a last resort, a 
Gatling gun which stood near the entrance of the tent, and which from its great 
Aveight would probably withstand the force of the current, was hauled closer to 
the tent and ropes securely attached to the wheels ; by these roi^es it was pro- 
posed to fasten the ladies and the servant to the gun, and in this way, should 
the streams not rise too high above the knoll, their lives might be saved. 

The colored girl, Eliza, who was devoted to her mistress, and who had been 
amid scenes of great danger, Avas on this occasion invaluable. Eliza had 
quite a history before she visited the Plains. Formerly a slave, but set free by 
the war, she had accompanied me as cook during the last three years of the 
war. Twice taken prisoner by the Confederates, she each time made lier es- 
cape and refound me. She was present at almost every prominent battle of 
the Army of the Potomac, accompanied my command on all the raids and win- 
ter marches, and upon more than one occasion during the progress of a battle 
Eliza might be seen near the front earnestly engaged in preparing a cup of cof- 
fee for the officers at headquarters, who but for her would have gone tlirough 
the day dinnerless. I have seen her remain by her camp cook fire when the 
■enemy's shells were bursting overhead, to such an extent that men who Avere 
«imihirly employed deserted their station and sought shelter in the rear. There 
were fcAv officers or soldiers in the cavalry corps, from General Sheridan doAvn, 
Avith whom Eliza was not a great favorite. All had a pleasant word for her, 
and few had not at some time or other cause to remember her kindness. 

'\Vlien the water finally api^roached close to the tent, Eliza marked its por- 
gress from time to time by placing small stakes at the water line. How anx- 
iously the gradual rise of the torrent must have been Avatched. At last, when 
all liope seemed almost exhausted, the Avaters Avere stayed in their pi'ogress, 
and soon, to the great joy of tlie little party besieged, began to recede. It Avas 
still dark, but so rapidly did the A^olume of Avater diminish — as rapidly as it had 
accumulated — that a fcAV hours after daylight a safe passage Avas effected 
to the mainland. With the exception of those of the six soldiers, no lives were 
lost, although many narroAV escapes Avei'e made. 

In the morning, daylight showed the post hospital, a stone building, sui'- 
I'ounded by an unfordable stream, the Avater rusliing througli the doars and 
Avindows. The patients had managed to climb upon the roof, and could be 
seen by the officers and men on the mainland. No boats Avere to be had, but 
no class of men are so full of expedients as soldiers. The beds of some gov- 
ernment Avagons Avere hastily removed, the canvas covers Avere stretched 
under the bottoms, and in this Avay a temporary kind of pontoon Avas constructed 
which ansAvered tlie desired purpose, and by means of which the beleaguered 
patients Avere soon relcii,sed. 

The officer in command of the infantry, Major Merriam, Avas occupying a 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 61 

tent with his wife near tlie main camp. Finding liimself cut off from the main- 
hmd, but before tlie water had attained its greatest dejjtli, he took his wife ia 
liis arms and forded tlie stream wliich ran between liis tent and the bhili", and 
in tliis manner reached a point of safetj'. It is remarliable, however, tliat 
witliin two years from tlie date of this occurrence, this same officer with his 
wife and child encountered a simihir freshet in Texas, hundreds of miles 
from this locality, and that tlie watery grave which was so narrowly avoided 
in Kansas awaited tlie mother and child in Texas. Of the circumstances 
of the storm at Fort Ilaj's I was necessarily ignorant until weeks later. 

Soon after midnight, everything being in readiness, and my little party hav- 
ing been refreshed by a cup of good army coffee, it only remained to say adieu 
to those who were to remain behind, and we were ready for our moonliglit 
gallop. 

But little was said as Ave made our way rapidly over the plain in the direc- 
tion taken by the command. Occasionally, as we dashed across a ravine, we 
would suddenly come upon a herd of antelopes or a few scattering buffaloes, 
startling them from their repose and causing them to wonder what was the oc- 
casion and who the strange parties disturbing the j)eaceful quiet of the night 
in this unusual manner. On we sped, our good steeds snuffing the early morn- 
ing air and pressing forward as eagerly as if they knew their companions were 
awaiting them in the advance. 

Dayliglit had given us no evidence of its coming, wlien, after a ride of near- 
ly twenty miles, we found ourselves descentling into a valley in which we knew 
tlie command must be encamped. The moon had disappeared below the hori- 
zon, and we were left to make our way aided by such light as the stars twink- 
ling in a clear sky afforded us. Our horses gave us unmistakable evidence 
tliat camp was near. To convince us beyond all doubt, the clear ringing notes 
of the bugle sounding the reveille greeted our ears, and directed by the sound 
we soon found ourselves in camp. 

A cavalry camp immediately after reveille always presents an animated 
and most interesting scene. As soon as the rolls are called and the reports of 
absentees made to headquarters, the men of the companies, with the exception 
of tlie cooks, are employed in the care of the horses. The latter tire fed, and 
while eating are thoroughly groomed by the men, under the superintendence 
of their officers. Nearly an hour is devoted to this important duty. In the 
meanwhile the company cooks, ten to each company, and the officers' servants, 
are busily engaged preparing breakfast, so that within a few minutes after the 
horses have received proper attention breakfast is ready, and being very sim- 
ple it requires but little time to dispose of it. Immediately after breakfast the 
tirst bugle call indicative of the march is the "General," and is the signal for 
tents to be taken down and everything jjacked in readiness for moving. A 
few minutes later this is followed by the bugler at headquarters sounding 
*• Boots and saddles," when horses are saddled up and the wagon train put in 
readiness for " pulling out." Five minutes later " To horse " is sounded, and 
the men of each company lead their horses into line, each ti'ooper standing at 
the head of his horse. At the words " Prepare to mount," from the command- 
ing officer, each trooper places his left foot in the stirrup; and at the command 
" Mount," every man rises on his stirrup and places himself in his saddle, the 
whole command i^resenting the appearance to the eye of a huge machine pro- 
pelled by one power. Woe betide the unfortunate trooper who through care- 



53 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

lessness or inattention fails to place himself in his saddle simultaneously with 
liis companions. If he is not for this offence against military rule deprived 
of the services of his horse during the succeeding half day's march, he escapes 
luckily. 

As soon as the command is mounted the "Advance" is sounded, and the 
ti'oups, usually in " column of fours," move out. The company leading the ad- 
vance one day march in rear the following day. This successive changing 
g^ives each company an ojiportunity to march by regular turn in advance. 
Our average daily march, wlien not in immediate pursuit of the enemy, was 
about twenty-five miles. Upon reaching camjj in the evening the horses Avere 
cared for as in the morning, opportunities being given them to graze Ijefore 
dark. Pickets were posted and every precaution adopted to guard against sur- 
prise. 

Our second day's march brought us to the Saline river, where we encamped 
for the night. From our camp ground we could see on a knoll some two miles 
distant a platform or scaffold erected, which resembled somewhat one of our 
war signal stations. Curious to discover its purpose, I determined to visit it. 

Taking with me Comstock and a few soldiers, I soon reached the point, and 
discovered that the object of my curiosity and surprise was an Indian grave. 
The body, instead of being consigned to mother earth, was placed on top of the 
platform. The latter was constructed of sajilings, and was about twenty feet 
in height. From Comstock I learned that with some of the tribes this is tiie 
usual mode of disposing of the body after death. The prevailing belief of the 
Indian is that when done Avith this world the spirit of the deceased is trans- 
ferred to the " happy hunting-ground," wliere he is permitted to engage in the 
same pleasui'es and jjursuits which he preferred while on earth. To this end it 
is deemed essential that after death tlie departed must be supplied with tlie 
same equi]^>ment and ornaments considered necessary while in the flesh. In 
accordance with this belief a complete Indian outfit, depending in extent upon 
the rank and importance of the deceased, is prepared, and consigned with the 
body to the final resting-place. 

The body found on this occasion must have been that of a son of some im- 
portant chief; it was not full grown, but accompanied with all the arms and 
adornments usually owned by a warrior. There was the bow and quiver full 
of steel-pointed arrows, the tomahawk and scalping-knife, and a red clay pipe 
witli a small bag full of tobacco. In order that the departed spirit sliould 
not be wliolly dependent upon friends after his arrival at the happy hunting- 
ground, he had been supplied with provisions, consisting of small parcels con- 
taining coffee, sugar, and bread. Weapons of modern structure had also been 
furnished him, a revolver and rifle with jiowder and ball ammunition for each, 
and a saddle, bridle, and lariat for his pony. Added to these was a supply of 
wearing ap})arel, embracing every article known in an Indian's toilet, not ex- 
cejiting the various colored paints to be used in decorating himself for war. 
A handsome buckskin scalping-pocket, profusely ornamented with beads, com- 
pleted the outfit. But for fear that white women's scalps might not be readily 
obtainable, and desiring no doubt to be received at once as a warrior, who in 
his own country at least was not without renown, a white woman's scalp was 
also considered as a necessary accompaniment, a letter of introduction to tlie 
dusky warriors and chieftains who had gone before. As the Indian of the 
Plains is himself only when on hoi'seback, provision must be made for mount- 
lag him properly in the Indian heaven. To accomplish this, the Oivorite war 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 53 

pony is led beneath the platform on which the body of the warrior is placed at 
rest, and there strangled to death. 

No signs indicating the recent presence of Indians were discovered by our 
scouts until we ueared the ReiHiblican river, where the trail of a small war 
party was discovered running down one of the tributaries of the Republican. 
After following it far enough to determine the futilitj' of pursuit, the attempt 
was relinquished. Upon crossing the Republican we suddenly came in full 
view of about a hundred mounted warriors, who, without waiting for a parley 
of any kind, set off as fast as their horses could carry them. One squadron was 
sent in liiirsait, but was unable to overhaul the Indians. From the tracks 
we learned that the Indians were mounted on horses stolen from the stage 
company. These horses were of a superior quality, and purchased by the com- 
pany at a price about double that paid by the Government. This was the 
only occasion on which we saw Indians before reaching the Platte river. 

One of our camps was pitched on the banks of a small stream which had 
been named Beaver Creek. Comstock informed us that here an opportunity 
could be had of killing a few beavers, as they Avere very numerous all along 
this stream, which had derived its name from that fact. We had gone into 
camp about 3 P. M. The numerous stumps and fallen trees, as well as the 
beaver dams, attested the accuracy of Comstock's statement. By his advice 
we waited until sundown before taking our stations on the bank, not far above 
the site of our camp, as at that time the beaver would be out and on shore. 

Placing ourselves under Comstock's guidance, a small party proceeded to 
the gi'ound selected, where we Avere distributed singly at stations along the 
stream and quietly awaited the appearance of the beaver. Whether the noise 
from the camp below or the passing of hunting parties of soldiers in the after- 
noon had frightened them, I know not. I remained at my station with my 
rifle in hand ready to fire at the first beaver which should ofter itself as a sacri- 
fice, luitil the sun had disappeared and darkness liad begun to spread its heavy 
mantle over everything around me. No living thing had thus far disturbed my 
reveries. My station was on the immediate bank of the stream, on a path 
which had evidently been made by Avild animals of some kind. The bank 
rose above me to a distance of nearly twenty feet. I was just on tlie point of 
leaving my station and gi^'ing up all hope of getting a shot, when I heard the 
rustling of the long drj^ gi-ass a few yards lower down the stream. Cocking 
luy rifle, I stood retidy to deliver its contents into the approaching animal, 
Avliich I presumed would be seen to be a beaver as soon as it should emerge 
from the tall grass. It did not make its appearance in the path in which I 
stood until Avithin a few feet of me, Avhen to my great surprise I beheld instead 
of a beaver an immense wildcat. It Avas difiicult to say AAiiich of us Avas most 
surprised. Without delaying long to think, I took a hasty aim and fired. The 
next moment I heard a splash Avhich relieved my mind as to Avhich of us 
should retain the right of Avay on shore, the path being too narroAV to admit 
of our passing each other. I had either Avounded or killed the Avildcat, and 
its body in the darkness had been carried down Avith the current, as the dogs 
which Avere soon attracted from the camp by my shot were unable to find the 
ti-ail on either bank. 

Nothing occurred to break tlie monotony of our march until we reached 
Fort IMcPherson, on the Platte river. The country over Avhich Ave had marched 
had been quite varied in its character, and as Ave neared the Platte it became 
very broken and abrupt. It was only by availing ourselves of Comstock's su- 



54 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

perior knowledge of the country that we found an easy exit from the deep 
canons and rough defiles which were encountered. 

At Fort McPherson we refilled our wagons with supplies of rations and for- 
age. At the same time, in acconlance Avitli my instructions, I reported by tel- 
egraph my arrival to General Sherman, who was then furtlier west on the line 
of the Union Pacific road. lie did not u)aterially change mj instructions, 
further than to direct me to remain near Fort McPherson until his arrival, 
whicli would be in the course of a few days. 

Moving my command about twelve miles from the fort, I arranged for a 
council with Pawnee Killer and a few other Sioux chiefs, who luid arrived at 
the Platte about the same time my command had. My object was, if possible, 
to induce Pawnee Killer and his band, with such otlier Indians as might choose 
to join them, to bring tlieir lodges into the vicinity of the fort, and remain at 
peace with the whites. Pawnee Killer and his chiefs met me in council and 
tlie subject was discussed, but with no positive conclusions. While protesting 
strongly in favor of preserving peaceful relations with us, the subsequent con- 
duct of the chiefs only confirmed the suspicion that tliey had arranged the 
council not to perfect a friendly agreement with us, but to spy out and discover, 
if possible, our future plans and movements. In tliis they Avere disappointed. 
Their numerous inquiries as to where we intended proceeding when we re- 
sumed the march were unavailing. Desiring to leave notliing undone to en- 
courage a friendly attitude on their part, I gave the chiefs on parting with 
them liberal presents of cofiee, sugar, and other articles gratifying to the taste 
of an Indian. They departed after giving utterance to the strongest expres- 
sions of their desire to live at jjeace with their " white brothers," and promised 
to collect their families and bring them in under protection of the fort, and 
thus avoid becoming entangled in the ravages of an Indian war which now 
promised to become general throughout the Plains. Pawnee Killer and his 
chiefs never attempted to keep their j^romises. 

General Sherman arrived at my camp next day. He had no confidence in 
the faith of Pawnee Killer and his band, and desired that a party be sent in 
pursuit at once, and bring the chiefs back and retain a few of the jn-ominent 
ones as hostages for the fulfilment of their agreement. This was decided to be 
impracticable. It was then judged best for me to move my command in a 
si'uthwesterly direction to the forks of the Republican, a section of country usually 
infested by Indians, and there endeavor to find the village of Pawnee Killer, and 
compel him, if necessary, to move nearer to the fort, so that we might distin- 
guish between those who were friendly and those who were not. Besides, it 
was known that the Cheyennes and Sioux, whom we had pursued from the 
Arkansas across the Smoky Hill river, had not ci'ossed north of the Platte, antj 
they Avere rightly supposed to be located somewhere near the forks of the Re- 
publican. I could reach this point in three daj-s' marching after leaving the 
Platte river, on whose l)anks we were then encamped. 

Owing to the rough and broken character of the bluffs Avhich bound the 
valley of the Platte on the south side, it was determined to march up tlie men 
about fifteen miles from the fort and strike south through .an opening in the 
IjlnfTs known as Jack Morrow's canon. Genei'al Sherman rode with us as far 
as this point, wliere, after commending the Cheyennes and Sioux to us in his 
expressive manner, he bade us good-by, and crossed the river to the railroad 
station on the north side. Thus far we had had no real Indian warfare. Wo 
were soon to experience it, attended by all its frightful barbarities. 



YII. 



BEFORE leaving the Platte I employed two additional interpreters who 
were familiar with the Sioux language. Bolili were white men, but, 
following the example of many frontiersmen, they had taken unto tliemselves 
Indian wives, and each had become the head of a considerable family of half- 
breeds. 

Starting nearly due south from the Platte, and marching up the canon, which 
forms a natural gateway through the otherwise almost impassable barrier of 
blufts and deep ravines bordering the valley of the Platte river, we again set 
out in search of Indians. The latter are sought after so frequently and found 
so seldom, excei^t when not wanted, that scouting parties, as a general thing, are 
not overburdened with confidence on beginning an expedition. Most of us, how- 
ever, felt that we were destined to see Indians — an impression probably due to 
the fact that we had determined to accomplish our purpose, if hard riding and 
watchfulness could attain this result. 

Our first day's march brought us to a small stream, a tributary of the Re- 
publican river, on whose banks we encamped for tlie night. Daylight tlie fol- 
lowing morning found us in the saddle and ascending from the valley to the 
table-lands; we were still in the broken counti'y. On reaching the plateau 
overlooking the valley we found ourselves enveloped in a dense fog, so dense 
that the sky was not visible, nor was an extended view of the country possible. 
Had the surface of the plain been, as usual, level and unbroken, we could have 
pursued our march guided by the unerring compass. But deep and impassa- 
ble canons divided the country in all directions and rendered our further pi-o- 
gress impracticable. The sun, however, soon rose high enough to drive away 
the mist, and permitted us to proceed on what might be truly termed our wind- 
ing way. 

The afternoon of the fourth day we reached the forks of the Republican, 
and there went into camp. We were then located about seventy-five miles 
southeast of Fort Sedgwick, and about the same distance northeast of Fort 
"Wallace. Intending to scout the surrounding country thoroughly in search of 
Indians, we selected our camp with reference to a sojourn of several days, 
combining among its essentials wood, water, good gi'azing, and last, but not 
least, facilities for defence. 

When I parted from General Sherman the understanding was, that after 
beating up the country thoroughly about the forks of the Republican river, I 
should march my command to Fort Sedgwick, and there I would eitlier see 
General Sherman again or receive further instructions from him. Circum- 
stances seemed to favor a modification of this plan, at least as to marching 
the entirS command to Fort Sedgwick. It was therefore decided to send a 
trusty officer with a sufficient escort to Fort Sedgwick with my despatch, and 
to receive the despatches which might be intended for me. My ^-oijosed 
cbtinge of programme contemplated a continuous march, which might be pro- 
longed twenty days or more. To this end additional supplies were necessary 
The guides all agreed in the statement that we were then about equidistant 
from Fort Wallace on the south and Fort Sedgwick on the north, at either of 
which the required supplies could be obtained; but that while the country be- 



56 MY LIFE O^ THE PLAINS. 

tween our camp ami the former was generally level and unbroken — favorable 
to the movement of our wagon train — that between us and Fort Sedgwick 
was ahnost impassable for heavilj'-ladcn wagons. The train tlien was to go to 
Fort Wallace under sufficient escort, be loaded with fresh supplies, and rejoin 
us in camp. At the same time the officer selected for thstt mission could pro- 
ceed to Fort Sedgwick, obtain his despatch, and return. 

Major Joel A. Elliot, a young officer of great courage and enterprise, was 
selected as bearer of despatches to Fort Sedgwick. As the errand Avas one 
involving considerable danger, requiring for the round trip a ride of almost 
two hundred miles, through a country which was not only almost unknown but 
infested hj large numbers of hostile Indians, the Major was authorized to 
arrange the details in accordance with his own judgment. 

Knowing that small detachments can move more rapidly than large ones, 
and that he was to depend upon celeritj' of movement rather than strength of 
numbers to evade the numerous war parties prowling in that vicinity, the 
Major limited the size of his escort to ten picked men and one of the guides, 
all mounted on fleet horses. To elude the watchful eyes of any parties that 
might be noting our movements, it was deemed advisable to set out from 
camp as soon as it was dark, and by making a rai)id night ride get beyond the 
circle of danger. In this way the little party took its departure on the night 
of the 23d of June. 

On the same day our train of wagons set out for Fort Wallace to obtain 
supplies. Colonel West with one full squadron of cavalry was ordered to 
escort the train to Beaver Creek, about midway, and there halt with one of his 
companies, while the train, under escort of one company commanded by Lieu- 
tenant Robljins, should proceed to the fort and return — Colonel West to em- 
ploy the interval in scouting up and down Beaver Creek. The train was 
under the special management of Colonel Cook, who on this occasion was 
acting in the capacity of a staflt" officer. 

While at Fort McPherson, and when under the impression tliat my com- 
mand u}>on arriving at Fort Wallace, after terminating the scouting exjjedi- 
tion we were then engaged upon, Avould remain in cam]) for several weeks, I 
wrote to my wife at Fort Hays, advising her to meet me at Fort Wallace, pro- 
vided that travel between the two posts was considered safe. I expected her 
to reach Fort Wallace before the arrival of the train and escort from my 
cami), and under this impression T sent a letter to her by Colonel Cook, asking 
her to come to our camjj on the Republican under escort of tlie Colonel, who 
was an intimate friend of the family. I am thus minute in giving these de- 
tails, in order that the events of the succeeding few daj^s may appear in their 
proper light. 

After the departure of the two detachments, which left us in almost oppo- 
site directions, our camp settled down to the dull and unexciting monotony of 
waiting patiently for tlie time when we should welcome our comrades back 
■again, and listen to such items of news as they might bring to us. 

Little did we imagine that the monotonj^ of idleness was so soon and so 
abruptly to be broken. Tliat night our pickets were posted as usual; the 
horses and mules, after being allowed to graze in the evening, wei'e brought 
in and securely tethered close to our tents, and tlie " stable guards " of the 
diU'crent troops had been assigned to their stations for the night. At half-past 
eight the bugler at headquarters sounded tlie signal for"taiJS," and before 
tlie last note had died away every light, m obedience to this command, disap- 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 57 

liearod, aiul nothing reinaine J to the eye, except here and there a faint glimpse 
of a white tent, to indicate tlie presence of our camp. 

It was just that uncertain period between darkness and daylight en the fol- 
lowing morning, and I was lying in my tent deep in the enjoyment of tliat per- 
fect repose wliicli only camp life oft'ers, wlien tlie sliarp, clear crack of a car- 
bine near b}^ brouglit me to mj' feet. I knew in an instant that the shot came 
from tlie piclcet posted not far from the rear of my camp. At the same mo- 
ment my brotlier, Colonel Custer, who on tliat occasion was officer of tlie day, 
and whose duties required him to be particularly on the alert, rushed jsast my 
tent, halting only long enough to show his face through the opening and shout, 
" They are here ! " 

Now I did not inquire wdio were referred to, or how many were included 
in the word "they," nor did my informant seem to think it necessary to ex- 
plain. " Tliey " referred to Indians, I knew full well. Had I doubted, the brisk 
fusillade which opened the next moment, and the wild war-whoop, were con- 
vincing evidences that in truth "they were here!" 

Ordinarily, I must confess to having sufiicient regard for the customs and 
courtesies of life to endeavor to appear in society suitably and appropriately 
dressed. But when the alarm of " Indians " was given, and in such a startling 
manner as to show they were almost in our midst, the question was not " What 
shall I wear.'' " but " What shall I do? " It has become so common — in fact, al- 
most a law — to describe the costumes worn upon memorable occasions, that I 
may be pardoned if I indulge in a description which I will endeavor to make as 
brief as the costume itself. A modern Jenkins, if desiring to tell the truth, would 
probably express himself as follows : " General Custer on this occasion ap^jeared 
in a beautiful crimson robe (red flannel robe de tiuil), very becoming to his 
complexion. His hair was worn au naturel, and permitted to full carelessly 
over his shoulders. In his hand he carried gracefully a liandsome Spencer 
rifle. It is unnecessary to add that he became the observed of all observers." 

My orderly, as was his custom, on my retiring had securely tied all the 
fiistenings to my tent, and it was usually the work of several minutes to undo 
this unnecessary labor. I had no time to throw awaj' in this manner. Leap- 
ing from my bed, I grasped my trusty Spencer, which was always at my side 
whether Avakijig or sleeping, and with a single dash burst open the tent, and, 
hatless as well as shoeless, ran to the point where the attack seemed to be con- 
centrated. 

It was sufiiciently light to see our enemies and be seen. The first shot had 
brought every man of my command from his tent, armed and equipped for 
battle. The Indians, numbering hundreds, were all around the camp, evident- 
ly intending to surround us, while a party of about fifty of their best mounted 
warriors had, by taking advantage of a ravine, contrived to approach quite 
close before being discovered. It was the intention of this party to dash 
through our camp, stampede all our horses, which were to be caught up by the 
parties sui-rounding us, and then finish us at their leisure. 

The picket, however, discovered the approach of this party, and by firing 
gave timely Avarning, thus frustrating the plan of the Indians, who almost in- 
variably base their hopes of success upon efi"ecting a surjjrise. 

My men opened on them such a brisk fire from their carbines that they 
were glad to withdraw beyond range. The picket w^ho gave the alarm was 
shot down at his post by the Indians, the entire party galloping over his body, 
and being prevented from scalping him only by the fire from his comrades, who 



58 MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

cl:isliccl out ami recovered him. lie was found to be badly though not mortally 
wounded by a rifle bull through the body. 

The Indiiins, seeing that their attempt to surprise us and to stami)ede our 
horses had failed, then withdrew to a point but little over a mile from us, where 
they congregated, and seemed to hold a conference with each other. We did 
not fear any further attack at this time. They were satisfied with this attempt, 
anil would await another opportunity. 

It was desirable, however, tliat we should learn if possil)lc to what tvilje our 
enemies belonged. I directed one of our interpreters to advance midway be- 
tween our camp and the Indians, and make the signal for holding a parlev, and 
in this way ascertain who were the principal chiefs. 

The ordinary manner of opening communication with parties known or 
su})posed to be hostile, is to ride toward them in a zigzag manner or to ritle in 
a circle. The interpreter gave the proper signal, and was soon answered by a 
small party advancing from the main bodj' of the Indians to within hailing dis- 
tance. It was then agreed that I, witli six of tlie officers, should come to the 
bank of the river, which was about equidistant from my camp and from the 
point where the Indians liad congregated, and there be met by an equal num- 
ber of the leading chiefs. To guard against treachery, I placed most of my 
command under arms and arranged with the officer left in command that a 
blast from the bugle should bring assistance to me if required. 

Six of the officers and myself, taking with us a bugler and an interpi'eter, 
proceeded on horseback to the designated point. Dismounting, we left our 
horses in charge of the bugler, who was instructed to watch every movement 
of the Indians, and upon the first appearance of violence or treachery to sound 
the "advance.'" Each of us took our revolvers from their leather cases and 
stuck them loosely in our belts. 

Descending to the river bank, we awaited the arrival of the seven chiefs. 
On one side of the river the bank was level and covered with a beautiful green 
sward, while on the opposite side it was broken and thickly covered by wil- 
lows and tall grass. The river itself was at this season of the year, and at this 
distance from its mouth, scarcely deserving of the name. The seven chiefs 
soon made their apjiearance on its opposite bank, and, after removing their 
leo-(rino;s, waded across to where we stood. Imagine our surprise at recog- 
nizing as tlie head chief Pawnee Killer, our friend of the conference of tiie 
Platte, who on that occasion had overwhelmed us with the earnestness of his 
jn-ofessions of peace, and who, after partaking of our hospitality under the guise 
of friendship, and leaving our camp laden with provisions and presents, returned 
to attack and murder us within a fortnight. This, too, without the sliglitest 
provocation, for surely we had not trespassed against any right of theirs since 
the exchange of friendly greetings near Fort IMcPhorson. 

Pawnee Killer and his chiefs met us as if they were quite willing to forgive 
us for interfering with the success of their intended sur^jrise of our can)p in 
the morning. I avoided all reference to what had occurred, desiring if possi- 
ble to learn the locality of their village and their future movements. All at- 
tempts, however, to elicit information on these points were skilfully parried. 
Tiie chiefs in turn were anxious to know our plans, but we declined to gratify 
tliem. Upon crossing to our side of tlie river. Pawnee Killer and his compan- 
ions at once extended tlieir hands, and saluted us with the familiar " How." 
Suspicious of their intentions, I kept one hand on my revolver during the con- 
tinuance of our interview. 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 69 

When we h:ul about concliided our conference a young brave, completely 
armed, as were all the chiefs, emerged from the willows and tall grass on the 
opposite bank and waded across to wliere we were, greeting us as tlie others 
liad done. Xotliing was thought of this act until a few moments after another 
brnve did the same, and so on until four had crossed over and joined our 
group. I then called Pawnee Killer's attention to the conditions under which 
we met, and told him he was violating his part of the contract. He endea- 
vored to turn it off by saying that his young men felt well disposed toward 
us, and came over only to shake hands and say " How.'' He was told, how- 
ever, that no more of his men must come. Tlie conversation was then resumed 
and continued until another party of the warriors was seen jjreparing to cross 
from tlie other side. Tlie conduct of these Indians in the morning, added to 
our oiMuions in general as regards treachery, convinced us that it would be in 
the highest degree imprudent to trust ourselves in their power. They already 
outnumbered us, eleven to seven, which were as heavy odds as Ave felt dis- 
posed to give. We all felt convinced that the coming over of these warriors, 
one by one, was but the execution of a preconceived plan whereof we were to 
become the victims as soon as their advantage iu numbers should justify them 
in attacking us. 

Again reminding Pawnee Killer of the stipulations of our agreement, and 
that while we had observed ours faithfully, he had disregarded his, I told 
him that not another warrior of his should cross the river to our side. And 
calling his attention to the bugler, who stood at a safe distance from us, I told 
him that I would then instruct the bugler to watch the Indians who were upon 
the opi^osite bank, and, upon any of them making a movement as if to cross, to 
sound the signal which would bring my entire command to my side in a few 
moments. This satisfied Pawnee Killer that any further attempt to play us 
f.ilse would only end in his own discomfiture. He at once signalled to the 
Indians on the other side to remain where they were. 

Nothing definite could be gleaned from the replies of Pawnee Killer. I 
was satisfied that he and his tribe were contemj)lating mischief. Their pre- 
vious declarations of jieaceful intent went for naught. Their attack on our 
camp in the moi'ning jiroved what they would do if able to accomplish their 
purpose. I was extremely anxious, however, to detain the chiefs near my 
camp, or induce them to locate their village near us, and keep up the sem- 
blance at least of friendship. I was particularly prompted to this desire 
by the fact that the two detachments which had left my command the previous 
day would necessarily continue absent several days, and I feared that they 
might become the victims of an attack from this band if steps were not taken 
to prevent it. Our anxiety was greatest I'egarding Major Elliot and his little 
party of eleven. Our only hope was that the Indians had not become aware 
of their departure. It was fortunate that the Major had chosen night as the 
most favorable time for setting out. As to the detachment tliat had gone 
witli the train to Fort Wallace Ave felt less anxious, it being sufliciently poA\'- 
erful in numbers to defend itself, unless attacked after the detachment became 
divided at Beaver Creek. 

Finding all efforts to induce PaAvnee Killer to remain with us unavailing, I 
told him that we would march to his village with him. This did not seem sat- 
isfactory. 

Before terminating our interview, the chiefs requested me to make them 
presents of some sugar, coffee, and ammunition. Remembering the use they 



60 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

had niiule of tlie latter article in the morning, it -will not appear strange if 
I declined to gratify them. Seeing that nothing was to be gained by prolong- 
ing the interview, we separated, the oflleers returning to our camp, and the 
Indians recrossing the river, mounting their ponies, and galloping ofl' to the 
main body, which was then nearly two miles distant. 

My command was in readiness to leap into their saddles, and I determined 
to attempt to follow the Indians, and, if possible, get near their village. They 
were prepared for this move on our part, and the moment we advanced toward 
them set ofl' at the top of their speed. We followed as rapidly as our heavier 
liorses could travel, but tlie speed of the Indian pony on this occasion, as on 
many others, was too great for that of our horses. A pursuit of a few hours 
proved our inability to overtake them, and we returned to camp. 

Soon after arriving at camp a small party of Indians was reported in sight 
in a different direction. Captain Louis Hamilton, a lineal descendant of Al- 
exander Hamilton, was immediately ordered to take his troop and learn some- 
thing of their intentions. Tlie Indians resorted to their usual tactics. There 
were not more than half a dozen to be seen — not enough to ap^jear formidable. 
These Avere there as a decoy. Captain Hamilton marched his troop toAvard the 
hill on which the Indians had made their appearance, but on arriving at its 
crest found that they had retired to the next ridge beyond. This manoeuvre 
was repeated several times, until the cavahy found itself several miles from 
camp. The Indians then ap^^eared to sej^arate into two parties, each going in 
different directions. Captain Hamilton divided his trooj) into two detachments, 
sending one detachment, under command of my brother, after one of the par- 
ties, while he Avith twenty-five men continued to follow the other. 

When the two detachments had become so far separated as to be of no as- 
sistance to each other, the Indians develojied their scheme. Suddenly dashing 
from a ravine, as if springing from the earth, forty-three Indian warriors burst 
out upon the cavahy, letting fly their arrows and filling the air with their wild 
war-whoojis. Fortunately Captain Hamilton was an officer of great presence 
of mind as well as undaunted courage. The Indians began circling about the 
troops, throwing themselves upon the sides of their ponies and aiming their 
carbines and arrows over the necks of their well-trained war-steeds. Captain 
Hamilton formed his men in order to defend themselves agamst the assaults of 
their active enemies. The Indians displaj'ed unusual boldness, sometimes 
dashing close up to the cavalry and sending in a j^erfect shower of l>ullets and 
arrows. Fortunately their aim, riding as they did at full speed, was necessa- 
lily inaccurate. 

All this time we who had remained in camp were in ignorance of what was 
transpiring. Dr. Coates, Avhose acquaintance has been made before, had ac- 
companied Captain Hamilton's command, but when the latter was divided the 
doctor joined the detac-hment of my brother. In some unexplained manner the 
doctor became sei)aratcd from both parties, and remained so until tlie sound 
of the firing attracted him toward Captain Hamilton's part3\ When within 
half a mile of the latter, he saw what Avas transpiring ; saw our men in the 
centre and the Indians charging and firing from the outside. His first impulse 
Avas to push on and endeavor to break through the line of savages, casting his 
lot Avith his struggling comrades. This impulse Avas suddenly nipped in the 
bud. The Indians, with their quick, Avatchful eyes, had discovered his i)res- 
ence, and half a dozen of their best mounted Avarriors at once galloped toward 
him. 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 01 

Happily the doctor was in the direction of camp from Ca])taiii Hamilton's 
party, and, comprehending the peril of his situation at a glance, turned liis 
horse's head toward camp, and applying the spur freely set out on a ride for 
life. The Indians saw this move, but were not disposed to be deprived of their 
victim in this way. They were better mounted tlian the doctor, his only ad- 
vantage being in the start and the greater object to be attained. When the race 
began he was fully four miles from camii, tlie day was hot and sultry, the coim- 
try rough and broken, and his horse somewli^t jaded from the effects of the 
ride in the morning. These must have seemed immense obstacles in the eyes 
of a man who was riding for dear life. A false step, a broken girth, or almost 
any trifle, might decide his fate. 

How often, if ever, the doctor looked back, I know not; his eyes more prob- 
bably were strained to catch a glimpse of camp or of assistance accidentally 
coming to his relief. Neither the one nor the other appeared. His pursuers, 
knowing tliat their success must be gained soon if at all, pressed their fleet po- 
nies forward until they seemed to skim over the surface of the green jilain, and 
their shouts of exultation falling clearer and louder ujjon his ear told the doc- 
tor that tlioy were surely gaining upon him. Fortunately our domestic horses, 
mitil accustomed to their presence, are as terriiied by Indians as b}^ a huge 
wild beast, and will fly from tliem if not restrained. The yells of the ap- 
proaching Indians served no doubt to quicken the energies of the doctor's horse, 
and impelled him to greater efforts to escape. 

So close had the Indians succeeded in ajiproaching that they Avere almost 
within arrow range, and would soon have sent one flying through the doctor's 
l)od3", when, to the great joy of the pursued and the corresponding grief of his 
pursuers, camp suddenly ai)peared in full view scarcely a mile distant. The 
ponies of the Indians had been ridden too hard to justify their riders in ventur- 
ing near enough to provoke pursuit upon fresh animals. Sending a parting 
volley of bullets after the flying doctor, they turned about and disappeared. 
Tlie doctor did not slacken his pace on this account, however; he knew that 
Captain Hamilton's party was in peril, and that assistance should reach him as 
soon as possible. Witliout tiglitening rein or sparing spur, he came dasliing 
into camp, and tlie fu'st we knew of his px*esence 1)0 had thrown himself from 
his almost Ijreathless horse, and was lying on the ground unable, from sheer ex- 
haustion and excitement, to utter a word. 

Tlie officers and men gathered about lu'm in astonishment, eager and anx- 
ious to hear his story, for all knew that something far from any ordin.ary event 
had transpired to place the doctor in such a condition of mind and body. As 
soon as lie had recovered sufliciently to speak, lie told us that he had left Cap- 
tain Hamilton surrounded by a superior force of Indians, and that he himself 
had been pursued almost to the borders of camp. 

Tliis was enougli. The next moment the bugle rang out the signal " To 
horse," and in less time than would be required to describe it, horses were sad- 
dled and arms ready. Then " tliere was mounting in hot haste." A mo- 
ment later the command set olT at a brisk trot to attem^jt the rescue of their be- 
leaguered comrades. 

Persons unfamiliar with tlie cavalry service may mentally inquire wli3% in 
such an emergency as this, the intended reinforcements were not pushed for- 
ward at a rapid gallop? But in answer to this it need only be said that we had 
a vide of at least Ave miles before us in order to arrive at tlie point where C-.xp- 
txm Hamilton and his command had last been seen, and it was absolutely ne- 



63 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

cessary to so husband the powers of our horses as to save them fur the real 
work of conflict. 

We had advanced in this manner probably two miles, when we discerned 
in the distance the approach of Captain Hamilton's party. Tliey were return- 
ing leisurely to camp, after having succeeded in driving off their assailants and 
intlicting upon tliem a loss of two Avarriors killed and several wounded. Tho 
Indians could only boast of having wounded a horse belonging to Captain 
Hamilton's party. 

This encounter with the Indians occurred in the direction taken by Major 
Elliot's detachment on leaving camp, and the Indians, after this repulse liy 
Captain Hamilton, withdrew in tliat direction. This added to our anxiety con- 
cerning the safety of Major Elliot and his men. There was no doubt now that 
all Indians infesting the broad belt of country between the Arkansas and Platte 
rivers were on the war path, and would seek revenge from any party so unfor- 
tunate as to fall in their way. The loss of the two Avarriors slain in the fight, 
and their Avounded comrades, Avould be additional incentives to acts of hostili- 
ty. If there had been any possible means of communicating Avitli Major Elli- 
ot, and either strengthening or warning him, it Avould have been done. lie 
left us by no travelled or defined route, and it Avas by no means probable that 
he would pass over the same trail in coming from Fort SedgAvick as in going 
to that point; otherAvise reinforcements could have been sent out over his trail 
to meet him. 

On tlie 27th our fears for the safety of the Major and his escort Avere dis- 
pelled by their safe return to camp, having accomplished a ride of nearly two 
hundred miles through an enemy's country. They had concealed themselves 
in ravines during the daytime and travelled at night, trusting to the faithful 
compass and their guide to bring them safely back. 

Now that the INlajor and his party had returned to us, our anxiety became 
centred in the fate of the larger party Avhicli had jjroceeded Avith the train to 
Fort Wallace for supplies. Tiie fact that Major Elliot had made liis trip un- 
molested by Indians, proved that the latter Avere most likely assembled south 
of us, that is, between us and Fort Wallace. Wherever they Avere, their num- 
bers were known to be large. It Avould be impossible for a considerable foi'ce, 
let alone a Avagon train, to pass from our camp to Fort Wallace and not be 
seen by the Indian scouting parties. They had probably observed the depart- 
ure of the train and escort at the time, and, divining the object Avliicli occasioned 
the sending of the wagons, AVould permit them to go to the fort unmolested, but 
Avould Avaylay them on their return, in tho hope of obtaining the supplies they 
contained. Under this supposition the Imlians had probably Avatched the train 
and escort during every mile of their progress ; if so, they would not fail to dis- 
cover that the larger portion of the escort halted at Beaver Creek, Avhile the 
Avagons proceeded to the fort guarded by only forty-eight men ; in which ease 
the Indians Avould combine their forces and attack the train at some point be- 
tAveen Fort Wallace and Beaver Creek. 

Looking at these probable events, I not only felt impelled to act promptly 
to secure the safety of the train and its escort, but a deeper and stronger mo- 
tive stirred me to leave nothing undone to circumvent the Indians. !My Avife, 
Avho, in ansAA'cr to my letter, I believed was then at Fort Wallace, Avould place 
herself under the protection of tlie escort of the train and attempt to rejoin me 
in camp. The mere thought; of the danger to Avhich she miglit be exposed 
spurred me to decisive action. One full squadron, Avell mounted and armed, 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 63 

nndei* command of Lieutenant-Colonel flyers, an otiicer of great experience 
in Indian affairs, left our camp at dark on the evening of the day that Ca2)taia 
iraniilton had liad his engagement witli the Indians, and set out in tlie direc- 
tion of Fort Wallace. His orders were to press forward as rapidlj' as 2:)racti- 
cable, following the trail made by the train. Written orders were sent in his 
care to Colonel West, who was in command of that portion of the escort which' 
had halted at Beaver Creek, to join Colonel Myers's command with his own, and 
tlien to continue the march toward Fort Wallace until he should meet the re- 
turning train and escort. The Indians, however, were not to be de^jrived of 
this opportunitj^ to secure scalps and plunder. 

From our camp to Beaver Creek was nearly fifty miles. Colonel Myers 
marched his command without halting until he joined Colonel West at Beaver 
Creek. Here the two commands united, and under the direction of Colonel 
West, the senior officer of the party, proceeded toward Fort AVallace, follow- 
ing the trail left by the wagon train and escort. If the escort and Colonel 
West's forces could be united, they might confidently hope to repel any attack 
made upon them by Indians. Colonel West was an old Indian fighter, and too 
thoroughly accustomed to Indian tactics to jjcrmit his command to be surprised 
or defeated in any manner other than by a fair contest. 

Let us leave them for a time and join the wagon train and its escort — the 
latter numbering, all told, as before stated, forty-eight men under the imme- 
diate command of Lieutenant Robbius. Colonel Cook, whose special duty con- 
nected him with the train and its supplies, could also be relied uj3on for ma- 
terial assistance with the troops, in case of actual conflict with the enemy. 
Comstock, the favorite scout, a host in himself, was sent to guide the party to 
antl from Fort Wallace. In addition to these Avere the teamsters, Avho could 
nut be expected to do more than control their teams should the train be at- 
tacked. 

The march from camp to Beaver Creek Avas made Avithout incident. Here 
tlie combifned forces of Colonel West and Lieutenant Bobbins encamped to- 
gether during the night. Next morning at early daAvn Lieutenant Robbins's 
party, having the train in charge, continued the march toward Fort Wallace, 
Avhile Colonel West sent out scouting parties uj) and down the stream to search 
for Indians. 

As yet none of their party were aAA^are of the hostile attitude assumed by 
ihe Indians Avithin the past fcAV hours, and Colonel West's instructions con- 
templated a friendly meeting betAveen his forces and the Indians should the 
latter be discovered. The march of the train and escort was made to Fort 
Wallace Avitliout interruption. . The only incident Avorthy of remark Avas an 
observation of Comstock's, Aviiich proved how thoroughly he was familiar 
Avith the Indian and his customs. 

The escort Avas moA'ing over a beautifully level plateau. Not a mound or 
hillock disturbed the evenness of the surfoce for miles in either direction. To 
an unpractised eye there seemed no recess or obstruction in or behind Avhich 
an enemy might be concealed, but everything appeared open to tlie vievr for 
miles and miles, look in Avhat direction one might. Yet such Avas not the case. 
Ravines of greater or less extent, though not perceptible at a glance, miglit have 
been discovered if searched for, extending almost to the trail over Avhich tlie 
party Avas moving. Tliese ravines, if followed, Avould be found to grow dee])er 
and deeper, until, after running their course for an indefinite extent, they AA'ould 
terminate in the valley of some running stream. These Avere the natural hid- 



64 UY LIFE OX THE PLAIXS. 

ing-places of Indian war pailies, waiting their opportunities to dash upon un- 
piispectinj^ victims. These ravines serve tlie same purpose to the Indians of 
the timberless phiins that tlie ambush did to those Indians of tlie Eastern States 
accustomed to figliting in the forests and everglades. Comst^jck's keen eyes 
took in all at a ghxuce, and he remarked to Colonel Cook and Lieutenant Rob- 
bins, as the three rode together at tlie head of tlie column, that " If the Injuns 
strike us at all, it will be just about the time Ave are comin' along back over this 
very spot. Now mind what I tell ye all." We shall see how correct Corn- 
stock's prophecy was. 

Arriving at the fort, no time was lost in loading up the wagons witli fresh 
supplies, obtaining the mail intended for the command, and preparing to set 
out on the return to camp the following day. No late news regarding Indian 
movements was obtained. Fortunately, my letter from Fort Mcl'lierson to 
Mrs. Custer, asking her to come to Fort Wallace, miscarried, and she did not 
undertake a journey which in all probability would have imperilled her life, 
if not terminated it in a most tragic manner. 

On the following morning Colonel Cook and Lieutenant Robbins began 
their return march. They had advanced one half the distance which sepa- 
rated them from Colonel West's camp without the slightest occurrence to dis- 
turb the monotony of their march, and had reached the point where, on pass- 
ing before, Comstock had indulged in his prognostication regarding Indians; 
yet nothing had been seen to excite suspicion or alarm. 

Comstock, always on the alert and with eyes as quick as those of an Indian, 
had been scanning tlie horizon in all directions. Suddenly he perceived, or 
thought he perceived, strange figures, resembling human heads, peering over the 
crest of a hill fir away to the right. Hastily levelling his field-glass, he jiro- 
nounced the strange figures, which were scarcely perceptible, to be neitlier 
more nor less than Indians. The officers brought into requisition their glasses, 
and were soon convinced of the correctness of Comstock's report. It was 
some time before the Indians perceived that they Avere discovered. Conceal- 
ment then being no longer possilde, they boldly rode to the crest and exposed 
tliemselves to full view. At first but twenty or thirtj^ made their appearance; 
gradually their number became augmented, until aljout a hundred Avarriors 
could be seen. 

It may readily be imagined that the appearance of so considerable a body of 
Indians produced no little excitement and speculation in the minds of the peo- 
ple Avith the train. The speculation Avas as to the intentions of tlie Indians, 
AA'hether hostile or friendly. Upon this subject all doul)ts Avere soon dispelled. 
The Indians continued to receiv^e accessions to their numbei's, the reinfoi'ce- 
ments coming from beyond the crest of the hill on Avhich tiieir pi-esence 
was first discovered. Finally, seeming confident in their superior numbers, 
tlie warriors, all of Avhom Avere mounted, advanced leisurely doAvn the slo])e 
leading in the direction of the tniin and its escort. By the aid of field- 
glasses, Comstock and the two offit^ers Avere able to determine fully the 
character of the party noAV approaching them. The last doubt Avas thus re- 
moved. It Avas clearly to be seen that the Indians Avere arrayed in full Avar 
costume, their heads adorned by the brilliantly colored Avar bonnets, their fiices,» 
arms, and bodies painted in various colors, rendering their naturally repulsive 
appearance even more hideous. As they ai)proached nearer they assumed a 
certain order in the manner of their advance. Some Avere to be seen carrying 
the long glistening lance Avith its pennant of bright colors; Avhile upon the 



^^ 




MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 65 

left arm hung the round shield, almost bullet-pi'oof, and ornamented with 
paint and feathers according to the taste of the wearer. Nearly all were armed 
with carbines and one or two revolvers, while many in addition to these weap- 
ons carried the bow and arrow. 

"When the entire band had defiletl down the inclined slope, Comstock and 
the officers were able to estimate roughly the full strength of tlie party. They 
were astonished to perceive that between six and seven hundred warriors were 
bearing down ujion tliem, and in a few minutes would undoubtedly commence 
the attack. Against such odds, and upon gi'ound so favorable for the Indian 
mode of wai'fare, it seemed unreasonable to hope for a favorable result. Yet 
the entire escort, officers and men, entered upon their defence with the det'er- 
mination to sell their lives as dearly as possible. 

As the coming engagement, so far as the cavalry was concerned, 'was to be 
purely a defensive one. Lieutenant Roljbins at once set about preparing to re- 
ceive his unwelcome visitors. Colonel Cook formed the train in two parallel 
columns, leaving ample space between for the hoi'ses of the cavalry. Lieu- 
tenant Robbins then dismounted his men and prepared to fight on foot. The 
led horses, under charge of the fourth trooper, were placed between the 
two columns of wagons, and were thus in a measure pi'otected from the as- 
saults which the officers had every reason to believe Avould be made for their 
capture. The dismounted cavalrymen were thus formed in a regular circle 
enclosing the train and horses. Colonel Cook took command of one flank. 
Lieutenant Robbins of the other, while Comstock, who as well as the two offi- 
cers remained mounted, galloped from point to point Avherever his presence 
was most valuable. These dispositions being j^erfected, the march avus resumed 
in this order, and the attack of the savages calmly awaited. 

The Indians, who were interested spectators of these prej^arations for their 
reception, continued to approach, but seemed willing to delay their attack until 
the plain became a little more favorable for their operations. Finally, tlie 
desired moment seemed to have arrived. The Indians had approached to within 
easy range, yet not a shot had been fired, the cavalrymen having been in- 
structed by their officers to reserve their fire for close quarters. Suddenly, 
with a wild ringing war-whoop, the entire band of warriors bore down upon 
the train and its little party of defenders. 

On came the savages, filling the air with their terrible yells. Their first 
object, evidently, was to stamjiede the horses and draught animals of tiio train ; 
then, in the excitement and consternation which would follow, to massacre the 
escort and drivers. The wagon-master in immediate charge of tlie train hrxl 
been ordered to keep his two columns of wagons constantly moving forward 
and well closed up. This last injunction was hardly necessary, as tlie fright- 
ened teamsters, glancing at the approaching warriors and hearing theii- savage 
shouts, were sufficiently anxious to keep well closed upon their leaders. 

The first onslaught of the Indians was made on the flank whicli was superin- 
tended by Colonel Cook. They rode boldly forward as if to dash over tlie 
mere handful of cavalrymen, who stood in skirmishing order in a circle about 
tlie train. Not a soldier faltered as the enemy came thundering upon them, 
but waiting until the Indians were within short rifle I'ange of the train, the 
cavalrymen dropped upon their knees, and taking deliberate aim poured a vol- 
ley from their Speiicer carbines hito the ranks of the savages, which seemed to 
l)ut a sudden check upon the ardor of their mcjvenients and forced them to 
wheel off to the right. Several of the warriors were seen to reel in their sad- 



G5 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

dies, wlnle the ponies of others were brought down or wounded by tho 
ellectual fire of the cavah-ymeii. 

Tliose of the savages Avho were shot from their saddles were scarcely per- 
mitted to fall to the ground before a score or more of their comrades dashed 
to their rescue and bore their bodies beyond the j^ossible roach of our men. 
This is in accordance with the Indian custom in battle. They will risk the 
lives of a dozen of their best warriors to prevent the body of any one of their 
number from falling into the white man's possession. The reason for this is 
the belief, which generally prevails among all the tribes, that if a warrior 
loses his scalp he forfeits his hoi)e of ever reaching the hajjpy hunting-ground. 

As the Indians were being driven back by the well-directed vollej- of the 
cavalrjnnen, the latter, overjoyed at their first success, became reassured, and 
sent up a cheer of exultation, while Comstock, who had not been idle in the 
fight, called out to the retreating Indians in their native tongue, taunting them 
with their unsuccessful assault. 

The Indians withdrew to a point beyond the range of our carbines, and 
there seemed to engage in a jjarley. Comstock, who had closely watched every 
movement, remarked that "There's no sich good luck for us as to think them 
Injuns mean to give it up so. Six hundred red devils ain't agoin' to let fifty 
men stop them from gettin' at the coffee and sugar that is in these wagons. 
And they ain't agoin' to be satisfied until they get some of our scali^s to pay 
for the bucks we popped out of their saddles a bit ago." 

It was probable that the Indians were satisfied that they could not dash 
through the train and stampede the animals. Their recent attempt had con- 
vinced them that some other method of attack must be resorted to. Nothing 
but their greater superiority in numbers had induced them to risk so much in 
» charge. 

The officers passed along the line of skirmishers — for this in reality was all 
their line consisted of — and cautioned the men against wasting their ammuni- 
tion. It was yet earlj'^ in the afternoon, and should the conflict be prolonged 
until night, there was great danger of exhausting the supply of ammunition. 
The Indians seemed to have thought of this, and the change in their method of 
attack encouraged such a result. 

But little time was spent at the parley. Again the entire band of warriors, 
except those already disabled, prepared to renew the attack, and advanced as 
before — this time, however, with greater caution, evidently desiring to avoid 
a reception similar to the first. When sufficiently near to the troo^JS the In- 
dians developed their new plan of attack. It was not to advance e?i masse, as 
before, but fight as individuals, each warrior selecting his own time and method 
of attack. This is the habitual manner of figliting among all Indians of the 
Plains, and is termed "circling." First the chiefs led off, followed at regular 
intervals by the warriors, until the entire six or seven hundred were to be seen 
riding in single file as rapidly as their fleet-footed ponies could carry them. 
Preserving this ord«n-, and keeping up their savage chorus of yells, war-whoojjs, 
and taunting epithets, thj^ long line of mounted barbarians was guided in such 
manner as to envelop the ti-ain and escort, and make tlie latter appear like a 
small circle within a larger one. 

The Indians gradually contracted their circle, although maintaining the full 
ppeed of their ponies, until sufficiently close to open fire ujjon the soldiers. At 
first the shots were scattering and wide of their mark ; but, emboldened by the 
silence of their few but determined opponents, they rode nearer and fought 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 67 

with gi-eater impetuosity. Forced now to defend themselves to the uttermost, 
the cavah-yuien opened fire from their carbines, with most gratifying results. 
The Indians, however, moving at such a rapid gait and in single file, presented 
a most uncertain target.. To add to tliis uncertainty, the savages availed them- 
selves of their superior — almost marvellous — powers of horsemanship. Throw- 
ing themselves upon the sides of tlieir well-trained ponies, they left no part of 
their persons exposed to the aim of the ti'oopers except the head and one foot, 
and in this posture they were able to aim the weapons either over or under 
the necks of tlieir ponies, thus using the bodies of the latter as an effective 
shield against the bullets of their adversaries. 

At no time Avere the Indians able to force the train and its escort to come to 
a halt. The march Avas continued at an uninterrupted gait. This successful 
defence against the Indians was in a great measure due to tlie presence of the 
wagons, which, arranged in the order described, formed a complete barrier to 
the charges and assaults of the savages ; and, as a last resort, the wagons could 
have been hailed and used as a breastwork, behind which the cavalry, dis- 
mounted, would have been almost invincible against their more numerous en- 
emies. There is nothing an Indian dislikes more in warftxre than to attack a 
foe, however wealv, behind breastworks of any kind. Any contrivance which 
is an obstacle to his pony is a most serious obstacle to"*tlae warrior. 

The attack of the Indians, aggi'avated by their losses in warriors and po- 
nies, as many of the latter had been shot down, Avas continued Avithout cessa- 
tion for three hours. The supply of ammunition of the cavalry Avas running 
loAV. The "fourth trooj^ers," avIio had remained in charge of the led horses 
betAveen the tAVO columns of Avagons, were noAV rejilaced from the skirmishers, 
and tlie former were added to the list of active combatants. If the Indians 
sliould maintain the fight much longer, there was serious ground for apprehen- 
sion regarding the limited supply of ammunition. 

If only night or reinforcements would come! Avas the prayerful hope of 
those Avho contended so gallantly against such heavy odds. Night Avas still too 
far off to promise much encouragement ; AAdiile as to reinforcements, their com- 
ing Avould be purely accidental — at least so argued those most interested in their 
arrival. Yet reinforcements Avei'e at that moment striving to reach them. 
Comrades were in the saddle and spurring forAvard to their relief. The In- 
dians, although apparently turning all their attention to the little band inside, 
had omitted no precaution to guard against interference from outside parties. 
In this instance, perhaps, they Avere more than ordinarily watchful, and had 
posted some of their keen-eyed Avarriors on the high line of bluffs Avhich ran al- 
most parallel to the trail over Avhich the combatants moved. From theso blufis 
not only a good a^Icav of the fight could be obtained, but the country for miles 
in either direction Avas sjjread out beneath them, and enabled the scouts to dis- 
cern the approach of any hostile party which might be advancing. Fortunate 
for the savages that this precaution had not been neglected, or the contest 
in Avhich they Avere engaged might have become one of more equal numbers. 
To the careless eye nothing could have been seen to excite suspicion. But tlie 
warriors on the lookout Avere not long in discovering something which occa- 
sioned them no little anxiety. Dismounting from tlieir ponies and concealing 
the latter in a ravine, they prepared to investigate more fully the cause of their 
alarm. 

That which they saAV Avas as yet but a faint dark line on the surface of the 
plain, almost against the horizon. So faint Avas it that no- one but an Indian or 



08 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

pi-actised frontiersman would have observed it. It was fully ten miles from 
them and directly iu their line of march. The ordinary observer would have 
pronounced it a break or irregularity in the ground, or perhaps the shadow of 
a cloud, and its apparent permanency of location would have dispelled any fear 
as to its dangerous character. But was it stationary ? Apparently, yes. Tiie 
Indians discovered otlierwise. By close watching, the long foint line could be 
seen moving along, as if creeping stealthily upon an unconscious foe. Slowly 
it assumed a more definite shape, until what appeared to be a mere stationary 
dark line drawn upon the green surface of the plain, developed itself to the 
searching eyes of tlie red man into a column of cavalry moving at a rapid gait 
toward the very point they were then occupying. 

Convinced of this fact, one of the scouts leaped upon his pony and flew 
witli almost the speed of the wind to impart this knowledge to the chiefs in 
command on tlie plain below. True, the approaching cavalry, being still sev- 
eral miles distant, could not arrive for nearly two hours; but the question to be 
considered by tlie Indians Avas, whetlier it would be prudent for them to con- 
tinue their attack on the train — their ponies already becoming exhausted by the 
three hours' hard riding given them — until tlie arrival of the fresh detachment 
of the enemy, whose horses might be in condition favorable to a rapid pursuit, 
and thereby enable them to overtake those of the Indians whose ponies were 
exhausted. Unwilling to incur this new risk, and seeing no prospect of over- 
coming their present adversaries by a suilden or combined dash, the chiefs de- 
cided to withdraw Trom the attack, and make their escape while the advantage 
was yet in their favor. 

The surprise of the cavalrymen may be imagined at seeing the Indians, after 
pouring a shower of bullets and arrows into the train, withdraw to the bluffs, 
and immediately after continue their retreat until lost to view. 

This victory for the troopers, although so unexpected, was none the less 
welcome. The Indians contrived to carry away with them their kilhsd and 
wounded. Five of their bravest warriors were known to have been sent to the 
happy hunting-ground, wliile the list of their wounded was much larger. 

After the Indians had withdrawn and left the cavalrymen masters of the 
field, our Avounded, of whom there were comparatively few, received evexy 
possible care and attention. Those of the detachment Avho had escaped un- 
harmed Avere busily engaged in exchanging congratulations and relating inci- 
dents of the fight. 

In this manner nearly an hour had been Avhiled away, Avhen for in the dis- 
tance, in their immediate front, fresh cause for anxiety was discovered. At first 
the general opinion was that it was the Indians again, determined to contest 
their progi-ess. Field-glasses were again called into requisition, and revealed, 
not Indians, but the familiar blue blouses of the cavalry. Never Avas the sight 
more Avelcome. The next moment Colonel Cook, Avith Comstock and a few 
troopers, applied spurs to their horses and were soon dashing forward to meet 
their comrades. 

The approaching party was none other than Colonel West's detaclnnent, 
hastening to the relief of the train and its gallant little escort. A few Avords 
explained all, and told the lieroes of the recent fight. hoAV it happened that re- 
inforcements Avere sent to their assistance ; and then Avas explained Avhy the 
Indians had so suddenly concluded to abandon their attack and seek safety Id 
quietly withdraAving from the field. 



VIII. 



ON the morning of the 28th the train, with its escort, returned to the main 
camp on the Republican. All were proud of the conduct of those de- 
tachments of the command which had been brought into actual conflict with tlia 
Indians. The heroes of the late fights were congi-atulated heartily upon their 
good luck, while their comrades who had unavoidably remained in camp con- 
soled themselves with the hope that the next opportunity might be theirs. 

The despatches brought by Major Elliott from General Sherman directed 
me to continue my march, as had been suggested, up the North Republican, 
then strike northward and reach the Platte again at some point west of Fort 
Sedgwick, near Riverside Station. This programme Avas carried out. Leav- 
ing our camp on the Republican, we marched up the north fork of that river 
?i!x)ut sixty miles, then turned nearly due north, and marched for the valley of 
the Platte. 

The only incident connected with this march was the painful journey under 
a burning July sun, of sixty-five miles, without a drop of water for our horses 
or draught animals. This march was necessarily effected in one day, and pro- 
duced untold sufi:ering among the poor dumb brutes. Many of the dogs ac- 
companying the command died from thirst and exhaustion. When the sun 
went down we were still many miles from the Platte. The moon, which was 
nearly full at the time, lighted us on our weary way for some time ; but even 
this was only an aggravation, as it enabled us from the high blufis bordei'ing 
the Platte valley to see the river flowing beneath us, yet many miles beyond 
our reach. 

Taking Lieutenant Moylan, Dr. Coates, and one attendant with me, and 
leaving the command under temporary charge of Major Elliott, I jjushed on, 
intending after aiTiving at the river to select as good camping ground as the 
darkness and circumstances would permit. We then imagined ourselves with- 
in four or five miles of the river, so near did it appear to us. Mile after mile 
was ti-aversed by our tired horses, yet we apparently arrived no nearer our 
journey's end. At last, at about eleven o'clock, and after having ridden at a 
brisk rate for nearly fifteen miles, we reached the river bank. Our first act 
was to improve the opportunity to quench our thirst and that of our horses. 
Considering the lateness of the hour, and the distance we had ridden since leav- 
ing the command, it was idle to expect the latter to reach the river before day- 
light. Notliing was left to us but to bivouac for the night. This we did by se- 
lecting a beautiful piece of sward on the river bank for our couch, and taking 
our saddle blankets for covering and our saddles for pillows. Each of us at- 
tached his horse by the halter-strap to the hilt of his sabre, then forced the 
sabre firmly into the ground. Both horses and riders were weary as well as 
hungry. At first the horses grazed upon the fresh green pasture which grew 
luxuriantly on the river bank, but fiitigue, more powerful than hunger, soon 
claimed the mastery, and in a few minutes our little group, horses and men, 
were ^Tapped in the sweetest of slumber. 

Had we known that the Indians Avere then engaged in murdering men 
within a few minutes' ride of where we slept, and that when we awakened in 
the morning it would be to still find ourselves away from the command, oui 
sleep would not have been so undisturbed. 



TO My LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

Daylight wj\s begimiiug to make its api^earauce in tlie east when our little 
party of slumbering troopers began to arouse themselves. Those unfortunate, 
persons who have always been accustomed to the easy comforts of civilization, 
and who have never known what real fatigue or liunger is, cannot realize or 
appreciate the blissfiil luxury of a sleep which follows a day's ride in the sad- 
dle of half a hundred miles or more. 

Being the first to awake, I rose to a sitting posture and took a hasty survey 
of our situation. Within a few feet of us llowed the Platte river. Our gi'oup, 
horses and men, presented an interesting subject for a painter. To my sur- 
prise I discovered that a heavy shower of rain had fallen during the night, but 
so deep had been our slumber tliat even the rain had failed to disturb us. E;ich 
one of the party had spread his saddle blanket on the ground U) serve as his 
couch, Avhile for covering we had called into requisition the iudia-rubbtr 
poncho or rubber blanket which invariably forms an important part of the 
plainsman's outfit. The rain, without awakening any of the party, had aroused 
them sufficiently to cause each one to pull his rubber blanket over his foce, and, 
thus protected, he continued his repose. The ai^pearunce presented by this 
sombre-looking group of sleepers strongly reminded me of scenes during the 
war when, after a battle, tlie bodies of the slain had been collectCil for burial. 

But tills was no time to indulge in idle reveries. Arousing my comrades, 
we set about discovering the circumstances of our situation. First, the duties of 
a hasty toilet were attended to. Nothing, however, could be more simple. As 
we had slept in our clothes, top boots and all, we had so much less to attend 
to. The river flowing at our feet afforded a lavatory which, if not complete 
in its appointments, was sufficiently grand in its extent to satisfy every want. 

It was now becoming sufficiently light to enable us to see indistinctly for 
almost a mile in either direction, yet our eyes failed to reveal to us any evi- 
dence of tlie presence of the command. Here was fresh cause for anxiety, not 
only as to our own situation, but as to the whereabouts of the troops. Sad- 
dling up our horses, each person acting as his own gi'oom, we awaited the 
clearing away of the morning mist to seek the main body. We had not long 
to wait. The light was soon sufficient to enable us to scan the country willi 
our field-glasses in all directions. Much to our joy we discovered tiie bivouae 
of the troops about three miles down tlie river. A brisk gallop soon placed us 
where we desired to be, and a few words explained how, in the darkness, the 
column had failed to follow us, but instead had headed for the river at a point 
below us, a portion not reaching the bank until near morning. 

Breakfast disposed of, the next question Avas to ascertain our exact loca- 
tion and distance from tlie nearest telegraph station. Fortunately Riverside 
Station was near our camp, and from there we ascertained that we were then 
about fifty miles west of Fort Sedgwick. The party obtaining this informa- 
tion also learned that the Indians had attacked the nearest stage station west 
of camp the preceding evening, and killed tliree men. This station was only 
a few minutes' ride from the point on the river bank where myself and com- 
rades had passed the night in such fancied security. 

Believing that General Sherman must have sent later instructions for me to 
Fort Sedgwick than tliose last received from him, i sent a telegram to the 
officer in command at the fort, making inquiry to that eflect. To my surprise 
I received a despatch saying tliat, the day after the departure of Major Elliott 
and his detachment from Fort Sedgwick with despatches, of whicli mention 
has been previously made, a second detachment of equal strengtii, viz., teu 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 71 

troopers of the Secoutl United States Cavalry, under command of Lieutenant Kid 
der and guided by a famous Sioux chief Red Bead, had left Fort Sedgvvic' 
with important despatches for me from General Sherman, and tliat Lieu 
tenant Kidder had lieen directed to proceed to my camp near the forks of the 
Republican, and failing to find me there he was to follow rajjidly on my trail 
iintil he should overtake my command. I immediately telegraphed to Fort 
Sedgwick that nothing had been seen or heard of Lieutenant Kidder's detach- 
ment, and requested a copy of the despatches borne by him to be sent me by 
telegraph. This was done; the instructions of General Shenuan were for me 
to march my command, as was at first contemplated, across the country from 
tlie Platte to the Smoky Hill river, striking the latter at Fort Wallace. 
Owing to the low state of my supplies, I determined to set out for Fort Wal- 
lace at daylight next morning. 

Great anxiety prevailed tliroughout the command concerning Lieutenant 
Kidder and his party. True, he had precisely the same number of men that 
composed Major Elliott's detachment when the latter went upon a like 
mission, but the circumstances which would govern in the one case had 
changed when applied to the other. Major Elliott, an ofiicer of experience 
and good judgment, had fixed the strength of his escort and performed the 
journey before it was jjositively known that the Indians in that section had en- 
tered upon the war path. Had the attack on the commands of Ilamilttin, 
Robbins, and Cook been made prior to Elliott's departure, the latter would 
have taken not less than fifty troopers as escort. After an informal inter- 
change of opinions between the officers of my command regarding the where- 
abouts of Lieutenant Kidder and party, we endeavored to satisfy ourselves 
with the following explanation. Using the capital letter Y for illustration, let 
us locate Fort Sedgwick, from which post Lieutenant Kidder was sent with 
despatches, at the right upper point of the letter. The camp of my command at 
the forks of the Republican would be at the junction of the three branches of 
the letter. Fort Wallace relatively would be at the lower termination, and 
the point on the Platte at which my command was located the morning re- 
ferred to would be at the upper termination of the left branch of the letter. 
Robbins and Cook, in going with the train to Wallace for supplies, had passed 
and returned over the lower branch. After their retixrn and that of Major 
J^lliott and his party, my entire command resumed the march for the Platte. 
We moved for two or three miles out on the heavy Avagon trail of Robbins and 
Cook, then suddenly changed our direction to the right. It was supposed that 
Kidder and his party arrived at our deserted camp at the forks of tlie Repub- 
lican about nightfall, but finding us gone had determined to avail tliemselves 
of the moonlit night and overtake us before we should break camp next morn- 
ing. Riding rapidly in the dim light of evening, they had failed to observe 
the poi»t at which we had diverged from the plainer trail of Robbins and Cook, 
and instead of following our trail had continued on the former in the direction 
of Fort Wallace. Such seemed to be a plausible if not the only solution cai)a- ■ 
ble of being given. 

Anxiety for the fate of Kidder and his party was one of the reasons impel- 
ling me to set out promptly on my return. From our camp at the forks of the 
Republican to Fort Wallace was about eighty miles — but eighty miles of the 
most dangerous country infested by Indians. Remembering the terrible con- 
test in which the command of Robbins and Cook had been engaged on tills 
very route within a few days, and knowing that tlie Indians would in all prob- 



73 MY IJFE ON THE PLAINS. 

ability maintain a strict watch ovei* the trail to surprise any small party 
M'iiich might venture over it, I felt in the highest degree solicitous for the 
safety of Lieutenant Kidder and party. Even if he succeeded in reaching Fort 
Wallace unmolested, there was reason to apprehend that, impressed witli the 
importance of delivering his despatches promptly, he would set out on his re- 
turn at once and endeavor to find my command. 

Let us leave him and his detachment for a brief interval, and return to 
events which were more immediately connected with my command, and which 
oear a somewhat tragic as well as personal interest. 

In a previous chapter reference has been made to the state of dissatisfac- 
tion which had made its appearance among the enlisted men. This state of 
feeling had been principally superinduced by inferior and insufficient rations, 
a fault for wliich no one connected with the troops in the field was responsible, 
but which was chargeable to persons far removed from the theatre of our 
movements, persons connected witli the supply departments of tlie amny. 
Added to this internal source of disquiet, we were then on the main line of 
overland travel to some of our most valuable and lately discovered mining 
regions. The opportunity to obtain marvellous wages as miners and the in-os- 
jjeet of amassing sudden wealtli pi'oved a temptation sufficiently strong to 
make many of the men forget their sworn obligations to their government and 
tlieir duties as soldiers. Forgetting for the moment that the command to 
which they belonged was actually engaged in war, and was in a country in- 
fested with armed bodies of the enemy, and that the legal j)enalty of desertion 
under such circumstances was death, many of tlie men formed a combination 
to^T.'.'sert their coloi'S and escape to the mines. 

The first intimation received by any person in authority of the existence of 
this plot, was on the morning fixed for our departure from the Platte. Orders 
had been issued the previous evening for the conimand to march at daylight. 
Upwards of forty men were reported as having deserted during the night. 
There was no time to send parties in pursuit, or the capture and return of a 
portion of tliem might have been effected. 

The command marched southward at daylight. At noon, having marched 
fifteen miles, we halted to rest and graze the horses for one hour. The men 
believed that the halt was made for the remainder of the day, and here a plan 
was pei-fected among the disaffected by which upwards of one third of the ef- 
fective strength of the command was to seize their horses and arms during the 
night and escape to the mountains. Had the conspirators succeeded in put- 
ting tliis plan into execution, it would have been difficult to say how serious 
the consequences might be, or whether enough true men would remain 
to render the march to Fort Wallace practicable. Fortunately it was decided 
to continue the march some fifteen miles further before night. The neces- 
sary orders were given and everything was being repacked for the max'ch, 
when attention was called to thirteen soldiers who were then to be seen rap- 
idly leaving camp in the direction from which we had marched. Seven of 
. these were mounted and were moving off at a rapid gallop ; the remaining six 
were dismounted, not having been so fortunate as their fellows in procuring 
horses. The entire party Avere still within sound of the bugle, but no orders by 
bugle note or otherwise served to check or diminish tl»eir flight. The boldness 
of this attempt at desertion took every one by surprise. Sucli an occurrence as 
enlisted men deserting in broad daylight and under the immediate eyes of their 
officers had never been heard of. With the excei^tion of the horses of the guard 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 73 

and a few belonging to the officers, all others were still grazing and unsaddled. 
The officer of the guard was directed to mount his command promptly, and if 
possible overtake the deserters. At the same time those of the officers whose 
horses were in readiness were also directed to join in the pursuit and leave no 
effort untried to prevent the escape of a single malcontent. In giving each 
party sent in pursuit instructions, there was no limit fixed to the measm*es 
wliich they were authorized to ado^^t in executing their orders. This, unfortu- 
nately, was an emergency which involved the safety of the entire command, 
and required ti'eatment of the most summary character. 

It was found impossible to overtake that portion of the party whi ch was 
mounted, as it was afterwards learned that theyliad selected seven of the fleet- 
est horses in the command. Those on foot, when discovering themselves pur- 
sued, increased their speed, but a chase of a couple of miles brought the pur- 
suers within hailing distance. 

Major Elliott, tlie senior officer participating in the pursuit, called out to 
the deserters to halt and surrender. This command was several times repeated, 
but without eflect. Final]3% seeing the hopelessness of further flight, the de- 
serters came to bay, and to Major Elliott's renewed demand to throw down 
their arms and surrender, the ringleader drew up his carbine to fire upon his 
pursuers. This was the signal for the latter to open fire, which they did suc- 
cessfully, bringing down three of the deserters, although two of them were 
worse frightened than hurt. 

Rejoining the command with their six cai^tive deserters, the pursuing party 
reported their inability to overtake those who had deserted on horseback. 
The march was resumed and continued until near nightfall, by wliich time we 
had placed thh'ty miles between us and our last camp on the Platte. While 
on the march during the day, a trusty sergeant, one who had seiwed as a 
soldier long and faitlifully, imparted the first information which could be re- 
lied upon as to the plot which had been formed by the malcontents to desert 
in a body. The following night had been selected as the time for making the 
attempt. The best horses and arms in the command were to be seized and 
taken away. I believed that the summaiy action adopted during the day 
would inthnidate any who might still be contemplating desertion, and was 
confident that another day's march would place ns so far in a hostile and dan- 
gerous country, that the risk of encountering war parties of Indians would 
of itself serve to deter any but large numbers from attempting to make their 
way back to the settlements. To liridge tlie following night in safety was tlie 
next problem. While there was undoubtedly a large proportion of the men 
who could be fully relied upon to remain true to their obligations and to ren- 
der any support to their officers which might be demanded, yet the great diffi- 
culty at this time, owing to the sudden development of the plot, was to deter- 
mine who could be trusted. 

This difficulty was solved by placing every officer in the command on 
guard during the entire niglit. The men were assembled as usual for roll-call 
at tattoo, and then notified that every man must be in his tent at the signal 
" taps," which would be sounded half an hour later; that their company offi- 
cers, fully armed, would walk the company streets during the entire niglit, and 
any man appearing outside the limits of his tent between the hours of " taps " 
and reveille would do so at the risk of being fired upon after being once hailed. 

The night passed without disturbance, and daylight found us in the saddle 
and pursuing our line of march toward Fort Wallace. It is proper to here 



74 MY LIFE OX THE TLAIXS. 

record the fact that from tliat date onward desertion from that command 
dmung the continuance of tlie expedition was never attempted. It may be- 
come necessary in order " to perfect the record," borrowing a term from the 
War Department, to refer in a subsequent chai^ter to certain personal and offi.- 
cial events wliicli resulted partially from the foregoing occurrences. 

Let ns now turn our attention to Lieutenant Kidder and his detachment. 
The third niglit after leaving the Platte my command encamped in the vicinity 
of our former camp near the forks of the Republican. So far, nothing had 
been learned which would enable us to form any conclusion regarding the 
route taken by Kidder. Comstock, the guide, was frequently appealed to for 
an opinion wliich, from his great experience on the Plains, might give us 
some encouragement regarding Kidder's safety. But he was too cautious and 
careful a man, both in word and deed, to excite hopes which his reasoning 
could not justify. "Wlien thus appealed to he would usually give an ominous 
shake of the head and avoid a direct answer. 

On the evening just referred to the officers and Comstock were grouped 
near headquarters discussing the subject which w.as then uppermost in the 
mind of every one in camj). Comstock had been quietly listening to the 
various theories and surmises advanced by diflerent members of the group, 
but was finally pressed to state his ideas as to Kidder's chances of escaping 
harm. 

•'Well, gentle??ic?z," emphasizing the last syllable as was his manner, "be- 
foi'e a man kin form any ijee as to howtliis tiling is likely to end, thar are sev- 
eral things he ort to be acquainted with. For instance, now, no man need tell 
me any p'lnts about Injuns. Ef I know anything, it's Injuns. I know jest how 
tliey'll do anything and when they'll take to do it;- but that don't settle the 
question, and I'll tell you why. Ef I knowed this young lootenint — I mean Loo- 
tenint Kidder — ef I knowed what for sort of a man he is, I could tell you 
mighty near to a sartainty all you want to know ; for you see Injun huntin' 
and Injun fightin' is a trade all by itself, and like any other bizness a man has 
to know what he's about, or ef he don't he can't make a livin' at it. I have 
lots uv confidence in the fightin' sense of Red Bead the Sioux chief, who is guidin' 
the lootenint and his men, and ef that Injun kin have his own way thar is a 
fair show for his guidin' 'em through all right; but as I sed before, there lays 
the difficult}'. Is tliis lootenint the kind of a man who is willin' to take advice, 
even ef it does cum from an Injun ? My experience with you army folks has 
alius bin that the youngsters among ye think they know the most, and this is 
particularly true ef they hev just cum from West P'int. Ef some of them 
young fellars knowed half as much as they b'lieve they do, you coiddn"t tell 
them nothin'. As to rale book-larnin', why I 'spose they've got it all ; but the 
fact UT the matter is, they couldn't tell the diflerence twixt the trail of a war 
party and one made by a huntin' party to save their necks. Half uv 'em when 
they first cum here can't tell a squaw from a buck, just because both ride strad- 
dle ; but thoy soon larn. But that's neither here nor thar. I'm told that the 
lootenint we're talkin' about is a new-comer, and that this is his first scout. 
Ef that be the case, it puts a mighty onsartain look on tlie whole thing, and 
twixt you and me, gentlerue/z, he'll be mighty lucky ef he gits through all right. 
To-morrow we'll strike the Wallace trail, and I kin mightj' soon tell ef he has 
gone that way." 

But little encouragement was to be derived from these expressions. Tiio 
morrow would undoubtedly enable us, as Comstock liad predicted, to deterniine 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 75 

wliethev or not tlic lieutenant and his i^arty had missed our trail and taken that 
loading to Fort 'Wallace. 

At daylight our column could have been seen sti'etching out in the direction 
of the Wallace trail. A march of a few miles brought us to the point of inter- 
section. Comstock and the Delawares had galloiied in advance, and were 
about concluding a thorough examination of tlie various tracks to be seen in 
tlie trail, wiicn the head of the column overtook them. " Well, what do you 
find, Comstock? " was my first inquiry. " They've gone toward Fort AValLice, 
sure," was the reply; and in support of this ojjinion he added, "The trail 
shows that twelve American hoi'ses, shod all I'ound, Iiave passed at a walk, 
goin' in the direction of the fort; and when they went by this p'int they were 
all right, because their horses were movin' alo.jg easy, and there are no pony 
tracks behind 'em, as wouldn't be the case ef the Injuns had got an eye on 
'em." He then remarked, as if in parenthesis, "It would be astonishin' ef 
that lootenint and his lay-out gits into the fort without a scrimmage. He may; 
but ef he does, it will be a scratch ef ever there Avas one, and I'll lose my con- 
fidence in Injuns." 

The opinion exjiressed by Comstock as to the chances of Lieutenant Kidder 
and party making their waj^ to the fort across eighty miles of danger unmo- 
lested, was the concuiTent opinion of all the oflicers. And now that Ave had 
discovered their trail, our interest and anxiety became immeasurably increased 
as to their fate. The latter could not remain in doubt much longer, as two 
days' marching would take us to the fort. Alas ! we were to solve the mystery 
without waiting so long. 

Pursuing our way along the plain, heavy trail made by Robbins and Cook, 
and directing Comstock and the Delawares to watch closely that Ave did not 
lose that of Kidder and his partj', Ave patiently but hopefully awaited further 
developments. Hoav many miles AA^e had thus j^assed oA'er Avithout incident 
worthy of mention, I do not noAv recall. The sun Avas high in the heavens, 
shoAving that our day's march Avas about half completed, Avhen those of us Avho 
Avere riding at the head of the column discoA'cred a strange-looking object ly- 
ing directly in our jiath, and more than a mile distant. It Avas too large for a 
human being, yet in color and appearance, at that distance, resembled no ani- 
mal frequenting the Plains with Avhich any of us Avere familiar. Eager to de- 
termine its character, a dozen or more of our party, including Comstock and 
some of the Delawares, galloped in front. 

Before riding the full distance the qi;estion Avas determined. The object 
seen Avas the body of a Avhite horse. A closer examination shoAved that it had 
been shot Avithin the past few days, AA'hile the brand, U. S., proved that it Avas 
a government animal. Major Elliott then remembered that Avhile at Fort 
Sedgwick he had seen one company of cavalry mounted upon Avhite horses. 
These and other circumstances Avent far to convince us that this Avas one of the 
horses belonging to Lieutenant Kidder's party. In fact there Avas no room to 
doubt that this was the case. 

Almost the unanimous opinion of the command Avas that there had been a 
contest Avi h Indians, and this only the first evidence Ave should have proving 
it. When the column reached the jioint Avhere the slain horse lay, a halt Avas 
ordered, to enable Comstock and the Indian scouts to thoroughly examine the 
surrounding ground to discover, if jiossible, any additional evidence, such as 
empty cartridge shells, arrows, or articles of Indian equipment, shoAving that a 
fight had taken place. All the horse equipments, saddle, bridle, etc., had been 



76 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

CMTied away, but whether by friend or foe could not then be determined 
While the preponderance of circumstances favored the belief that the horse 
had been killed by Indians, there was still room to hope that he had been 
killed bj' Kidder's party and the equipments taken away by them ; for it fre- 
quently happens on a march that a horse will be suddenly taken ill and be un- 
able for the time being to proceed further. In such a case, rather than aban- 
don him alive, with a prospect of his recovering and falling into the hands of the 
Indians to be employed against us, orders are given to kill him, and this might 
be tlie true way of accounting for the one referred to. 

The scouts being unable to throw any additional light upon the question, 
we continvied our march, closely observing the ground as we passed along. 
Comstock noticed that instead of the trail showing that Kidder's party was 
moving in regular order, as when at first discovered, tliere were but two or 
three tracks to be seen in the beaten trail, the rest being found on the grass on 
either side. 

We had marched two miles pei-haps from the point Avhere the body of the 
slain horse had been discoveied, when we came upon a second, this one, like 
the first, having been killed by a bullet, and all of his equipments taken away. 
Comstock's quick eyes were not long in detecting pony tracks in the vicinity, 
and we had no longer any but the one frightful solution to offer : Kidder and 
his party had been discovered by the Indians, probably the same powerful and 
bloodthirsty band which ha'l been resisted so gallantly by the men. under Rob- 
bins and Cook; and against such overwhelming odds the issue could not be 
doubtful. 

We were then moving over a high and level plateau, unbroken either by 
ravines or divides, and just such a locality as would be usually chosen by the 
Indians for attacking a party of the strength of "Kidder's. The Indians could 
here ride unobstructed and encircle their victims with a continuous line of 
armed and painted warriors, Avhile the beleaguered party, from the even char- 
acter of the surface of the plain, would be unable to find any break or depres- 
sion from behind which they might make a successful defence. It was proba- 
bij' this relative condition of affairs which had induced Kidder and his doomed 
comrades to endeavor to push on in the hope of finding ground favorable to 
their making a stand against their barbarous foes. 

The main trail no longer showed the footjirints of Kidder's party, but in- 
stead Comstock discovered the tracks of shod horses on the grass, with here 
and there numerous tracks of ponies, all by their appearance proving that 
both horses and ponies had been moving at full speed. Kidder's party must 
liave trusted their lives temporarily to the speed of their horses — a dangerous 
venture when contending with Indians. However, this fearful race for, life 
must have been most gallantly contested, because we continued our march sev- 
eral miles further without discovering any evidence of the savages having 
gained any advantage. 

How painfully, almost despairingly exciting must have been this ride for 
life! A mere handful of brave men struggling to escape the bloody clutches 
of the hundreds of red-visaged demons, who, mounted on their well-trained 
war ponies, were straining every nerve and muscle to reek their hands in the 
life-blooil of their victims. It was not death alone that threatened this little 
band. They were not riding simply to preserve life. They rode, and doubt- 
less prayed as they rode, that they might escape the savage tortures, the worse 
than death Avhich threatened them. Would tliat their prayer had been granted ! 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 77 

We l)c;^an leaving the high jjlateau and to descenil into a valley, through 
\vliicli, at tlie distance of nearly two miles, meandered a small prairie stream 
known as Beaver Creek. The valley near the banks of this stream was cov- 
ered with a deiise growth of tall wild grass intermingled with clam2)S of osiers. 
At the point where the trail crossed the stream, we hoped to obtain more defi- 
nite informatioxi regarding Kidder's part}' and their pursuers, but we were not 
required to wait so long. AVlien within a mile of the stream I observed several 
large buzzards floating lazily in circles througli tlie air, and but a sliort dis- 
t;uice to the left of our trail. This, of itself, might not have attracted my at- 
tention seriously but for the rank stench which pervaded the atmosjjhere, re- 
minding one of the horrible sensations expe^ jnced upon a battle-tield when 
passing among the decaying bodies of the dead. 

As if impelled by one thought, Comstock, the Delawares, and half-a-dozen 
oflicers, detached themselves from the column and, separating into squads of 
one or two, instituted a search for the cause of our horrible suspicions. After rid- 
ing in all directions through the rushes and willows, and when about to relinquish 
the search as fruitless, one of the Delawares uttered a shout which attracted 
tlie attention of the entire command ; at the same time he was seen to leap from 
his horse and assume a stooping posture, as if criticallj' examining some ob- 
ject of interest. Hastening, in common with many otliers of tlie party, to liis 
side, a sight met our gaze whicli even at this remote day makes my very blood 
curdle. Lying in irregular order, and witliin a very limited circle, were the 
mangled bodies of poor Kidder and his party, yet so brutally hacked and dis- 
figured as to be beyond recognition save as human beings. 

Every individual of the party had been scalped and his skull broken — the lat- 
ter done by some weapon, probably a tomahawk — except the Sioux chief Red 
Bead, whose scalp had simply been removed from his head and then thrown 
down by his side. This, Comstock informed us, was in accordance Avith a 
custom which prohibits an Indian from bearing off the scalp of one of his own 
tribe. This circumstance, then, told us who the perpetrators of this deed were. 
They could be none other than the Sioux, led in all probability by Pawnee 
Killer. 

Red Bead, being less disfigured and mutilated than the others, was the 
only individual capable of being recognized. Even the clothes of all the party 
had been carried away ; some of the bodies were lying in beds of aslies, with 
partly burned fragments of wood near them, showing that the savages had put 
some of them to death by the terrible tortures of fire. The sinews of the arms 
and legs had been cut away, the nose of every man liacked off, and the features 
otherwise defaced so that it would have been scarcely possible for even a rel- 
ative to recognize a single one of the unfortunate victims. We could not 
even distinguish the officer from his men. Each body was pierced by from 
twenty to fifty arroAvs, and the arrows were found as the savage demons had 
left them, bristling in the bodies. While the details of that fearful struggle 
y\-\\\ probably neA'er be known, telling how long and gallantly this ill-fated 
little band contended for their lives, yet the surrounding circumstances of 
ground, empty cartridge shells, and distance from where the attack began, 
satisfied us tliat Kidder and his men fought as only brave men fight when the 
watcliAvord is victoiy or death. 

As the officer, his men, and his no less faithful Indian guide, had shared 
fcheii final dangers together and liad met the same dreadful fixte at the hands 
of the same merciless foe, it was but fitting that tlieir remains should be con- 



73 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

signed to one common o;rave. This was accordingly done. A single trench 
was dag near the spot where they had rendered up their lives upon the altar 
of duty. Silently, mournfully, their comi-ades of a brother regiment con- 
signed their mangled remains to mottier earth, there to rest undisturbed, ag 
we supposed, until the great day of final review. But this was not to be so; 
wliile the closest scrutiny on our part had been insufficient to enable us to de- 
tect tlie slightest evidence which would aid us or others in identifying the body 
of Lieutenant Kidder or any of his men, It will be seen hereafter how the 
marks of a mother's thoughtful affection Avere to be the means of identifying 
the remains of her murdered son, even though months had elapsed after his 
autimely death. 



IX. 



ON the evening of the day following that upon which we had consigned 
the remains of Lieutenant Kidder and liis party to their Immble resting- 
place, the command reached Fort Wallace ou the Smoky Hill route. From 
Uie occupants of the fort we learned much that was interesting regarding 
events which had transpired during our isolation from all points of communi- 
cation. The Indians had attacked the fort twice within the past few days, in 
both of which engagements men were killed on each side. The lighting on 
our side was ijrincipally under the command of Colonel Barnitz, whose forces 
were composed of detachments of the Seventh Cavalry. The fighting occurred 
on the level plain near the fort, where, owing to the favorable character of the 
gi-ound, tlie Indians had ample opportunity to display their powers both as 
warriors and horsemen. One incident of the fight was related, which, 1 s cor- 
rectness being vouched for, is worthy of l^eing here repeated. Both parties 
were mounted, and the fighting consisted i^rincipally of charges and counter- 
charges, the combatants of both sides becoming at times mingled with each 
etlier. During one of these attacks a bugler boy belonging to the cavalry 
was shot from his horse; before any of his comrades could reach him, a power- 
fully built warrior, superbly mounted on a war pony, was seen to dash at full 
speed toward the spot where the dying bugler lay. Scarcely checking tlje 
speed of his pony, who seemed to divine his rider's wishes, the warrior grasped 
the pony's mane with one hand and, stooping low as he neared the bugler, 
seized the latter with the other hand and lifted him from the earth, placin«" 
him across his pony in front of him. Still maintaining the full speed of his 
pony, he was seen to retain the body of the bugler but a moment, then cast it to 
the earth. The Indians being routed soon after and driven from the field, 
our troops, many of whom had witnessed the strange and daring action of 
tlie warrior, recovered possession of the dead, when the mystery became 
solved. The bugler had been scalped. 

Our arrival at Fort Wallace was most welcome as well as opportune. The 
Indians had become so active and numerous that all travel over the Smoky 
Hill route had ceased ; stages had been taken off tlie route, and manj' of the 
stiige stations had been abandoned by the employees, the latter fearing a repe- 
tion of the Lookout Station massacre. No despatches or mail had been re- 
ceived at the fort for a considerable period, so that the occupants might well 
have been considered as undergoing a state of siege. Added to these embar- 
rassments, which were partly unavoidable, an additional and under the circum- 
stances a more frightful danger stared the troops in the face. We were over 
two hundred miles from the terminus of the railroad over which our supplies 
were drawn, and a still greater distance from the main depots of supplies. It 
was found that the reserve of stores at the post was well-nigh exhausted, and 
the commanding oilicer reported that he knew of no fresh sujiplies being on 
the way. It is diflicult to account for such a condition of affairs. Some one 
must surely have been at fault; but it is not important here to determine who 
or where the parties Avere. The officer commanding the troops in my absence 
reported oflicially to headquarters that the bulk of tlie provisions issued to hi? 
nteu consisted of " rotten bacon " and *' hard bread " that was " no better." 



80 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

Cholera made its ai)pearance among the men, and deatlis occurred daily. The 
same officer, in officially commenting upon tlie character of the provisions 
issued to the troops, added : " The low slate of vitality in the men, resulting 
from the long conliiiement to tliis scanty and unwholesome food, will, I tliink, 
account for tlie gi-eat mortality among tlie cliolera cases; . . . and I be- 
lieve that unless we can obtain a more abundant and better su])ply of rations 
than we have had, it will be impossible to check this fearful epidemic." 

I decided to select uj)ward of a hundred of the Ijest mounted men in my 
command, and with this force open a way through to Fort Harker, a distanou 
of two hundred miles, where I expected to obtain abundant supplies ; from 
which point the latter could be conducted, well protected against Indians by 
my detachment, back to Fort Wallace. Owing to the severe marching of the 
past few weeks, the horses of the command were generally in an unlit condi- 
tion for further service without rest. So that after selecting upward of a 
hundred of the best, the remainder might for the time be regarded as unser- 
viceable ; such tliey were in fact. There was no idea or probability that the 
portion of the command to remain in camp near Fort Wallace would be called 
upon to do anything but rest and recuperate from their late marches. It was 
certainly not expected that they would be molested or called out by Indians; 
nor were they. Regarding the duties to be performed by the picked detach- 
ment as being by far the most important, I chose to accompany it. 

The immediate command of the detachment was given to Captain Hamil- 
ton, of whom mention has been previously made. He was assisted by two other 
officers. jMy intention was to push tln-ough from Fort Wallace to Furt Hays, 
a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles, as rapidly as was practicable; 
tlien, being bej'ond the most dangerous portion of the route, to make tlie re- 
mainder of the march to Fort Harker with half a dozen troopers, while Cai>- 
tain Hamilton with his command should follow leisurely. Under this arrange- 
ment I hoped to have a train loaded with supplies at Harker, and iu readiness 
to start for Fort Wallace, by the time Captain Hamilton should arrive. 

Leaving Fort Wallace about sunset on the evening of the 15th of July, we 
began our ride eastward, following the line of the overland stage route. At 
that diite the Kansas Pacific Railway was only completed as far westward as 
Fort Harker. Between Forts Wallace and Harker we expected to find the 
sttitions of the overland stage company, at intervals of from ten to fifteen 
miles. . In time of peace these stations are generally occupied by half a dozen 
employees of the route, eml^racing the stablemen and relaj's of drivers. They 
were Avell supplied with firearms and ammunition, and evei-y facilitj^ for de- 
fending themselves against Indians. The stables were also the quarters for 
the men. They were usually built of stone, and one would naturally think 
that against Indians no better defensive work would be required. Yet such 
was not the case. The hay and other combustible matei'ial usually containea 
in them enabled the savages, by shooting prepared arrows, to easily set them 
on fire, and thus drive the occupants out to the open plain, where their fate 
would soon he settled. To guard against such an emergency, each sta- 
tion was ordinarily provided with what on the Plains is termed a "dug-out." 
The name implies the character and description of the work. The "dug- 
out " was commonly located but a few yards from one of the corners of the 
stable, and was prepared by excavating the earth so as to form an opening 
not unlike a cellar, which was usually about four feet in dejith, and sufficiently 
roomy to accommodate at close quarters half a dozen persons. Tliis opening 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 81 

■was then covered with earth and looi^holed on all sides at a height of a few 
inches above the original level of the ground. The earth Avas thrown on top 
until the "dug-out" resembled an ordinary mound of earth, some four or five 
feet in height. To the outside observer, no means apj^arently were i^-ovided 
for egre,'^ or ingress; yet such was not the case. If the entrance had been 
been made above ground, rendering it necessary for the defenders to pass from 
the stjible unprotected to their citadel, the Indians would have posted them- 
selves accordingly, and picked them off one by one as they should emerge 
from the stable. To provide against this danger, an underground passage was 
constructed in each case, leading from the "dug-out" to the interior of the 
stable. With these arrangements for defence a few determined men coTild 
withstand the attacks of an entire tribe of savages. The recent depredations 
of the Indians had so demoralized the men at the various stations that many 
of the latter were found deserted, their former occupants having joined their 
forces with those of other stations. The Indians generally burned the deserted 
stiitions. 

Marching by night was found to be attended with some disadvantages. 
The men located at the stations which were still occupied, having no notice o£ 
our coming, and having seen no human beings for several days except the war 
parties of savages who had attacked them from time to time, were in a chronic 
state of alarm, and held themselves in readiness for defence at a moment's 
notice. The consequence was, that as we pursued our way in the stillness 
of the night, and were not familiar with the location of the various stations, 
we generally rode into close pi'oximity before discovering them. The station 
men, however, were generally on the alert, and, as they did not wait to challenge 
us or be challenged, but took it for granted that we were Indians, out first 
greeting would be a bullet whistling over our heads, sometimes followed 
by a perfect volley from the " dug-out." In such a case nothing was left for 
us to do but to withdraw the column to a place of security, and then for one 
of our number to creep up stealthily in the darkness to a point within hailing 
distance. Even this was an undertaking attended by no little dangei", as by 
this time the little garrison of the " dug-out" would be thoroughly awake and 
every man at his post, his finger on the trigger of his trusty rifle, and strain- 
ing both eye and ear to discover the approach of the hateful redskins, who 
alone were believed to be the cause of all this ill-timed disturbance of their 
slumbers. Huddled together, as they necessarily would be, in the contracted 
limits of their subterranean citadel, and all sounds from without being dead- 
ened and rendered indistinct by the heavy roof of earth and the few apertures 
leading to the inside, it is not strange that under the circumstances it would be 
difficult for the occupants to distinguish between the voice of an Indian and 
that of a white man. Such was in fact the case, and no sooner would the 
officer sent forward for that purpose hail the little garrison and endeavor to 
explain who we were, than, guided by the first sound of his voice, they would 
respond promptly with their rifles. In some instances we were in this man- 
ner put to considerable delay, and although this was at times most j^ro- 
voking, it was not a little amusing to hear the description given by the party 
sent forward of how closely he hugged the ground when endeavoring to es- 
tablish friendly relations with the stage people. Finally, when successful, and 
in conversation with the latter, we inquired why they did not recognize us 
fi-om the fact that we hailed them in unbroken English. They replied that the 
Indians resorted to so many tricks that they had determined net to be caught 



P2 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

even by tli:it one. They were somewhat justified in this idea, as we knew 
tliat among the In(hans who were then on the war-path there was at least one 
full blood who had been educated within the limits of civilization, <j:radHated 
at a popular institution of learning, and only exchanged his civilized mode of 
dress for the paint, blanket, and feathers of savage life after he had reached 
the years of nninhood. Almost at every station we received intelligence of In- 
dians having been seen iu the vicinity within a few days of our arrival. 

We felt satisfied they were watching our movements, although we saw no 
fresh signs of Indians until we arrived near Downer's st;ition. Here, while 
stopping to rest our horses for a few minutes, a small party of our men, who 
had without authority halted some distance behind, came dashing into our 
midst and reported that twenty-five or thirty Indians had attacked tliem some 
five or six miles in rear, and had killed two of their number. As there was a 
detachment of infontrj' guarding the station, and time being important, we 
pushed on toward our destination. The two men reported killed were left to be 
buried by the troops on duty at the station. Frequent halts and brief rests 
were made along our line of march; occasionally we would halt long enough 
to indulge in a few hoiu-'s sleep. About three o'clock on the morning of the 
18th we reached Fort Hays, having marched about one hundred and fifty 
miles in fifty-five hours, including all halts. Some may regard this as a rapid 
rate of marching; in fact, a few olTicers of the army who themselves have 
made many and long marches (principally in ambulances and railroad cars) 
ai"e of the same opinion. It was far above the usual r;ite of a leisurely made 
march, Ijut daring the same season and with a larger command I marched 
sixty miles in fifteen hours. This was officially reported, but occasioned no re- 
mark. During the war, and at the time the enemy's cavahy under Genera] 
,J. IZ. B. Stuart made its famous raid around the Army of tlie Potomac in 
;iiMaryland, a portion of om' cavalry, accompanied by horse artillery, in attempt- 
iing to overtake them, marched over ninety miles in twenty-four hours. A 
-year subsequent to the events narrated in this chapter I marched a small detach- 
ment eighty miles in seventeen hours, every horse accompanying the detach- 
ment completing the march in as fresh condition apparently as when the 
}narch began. 

Leaving Hamilton and his command to rest one day at Hays and then 
to follow on leisurely to Fort Ilarker, I continued my ride to the latter post, 
accompanied by Colonels Cook and Custer and two troopers. Vt'e reached 
Fort Harker at two o'clock that night, having made the ride of sixty miles 
Avithout change of animals in less than twelve hours. As this was the first tele- 
graph station, I immediately sent telegrams to headquarters and to Fort Sedg- 
wick, announcing the fate of Kidder and his party. General A. J. Smith, who 
was in command of this military district, had his headquarters at Ilarker. I at 
once reported to him in person, and acquainted him Avith everjMncident worthy 
of mention Avhich had occurred in connection with my command since leaving 
Iiim Aveeks before. Arrang^ements Avere made for the arrival of Hamilton's 
party and for a train containing supjilies to be sent back under their escort. 
/Living made my report to General Smith as my next superior officer, and 
there being no occasion for my pi-esence until the ti'ain and escort should be in 
readiness to return, I applied for and received authority to visit Fort Ril<;y, 
about ninety miles east of Ilarker l)y rail, where my family Avas th(Mi located. 

No movements ngainst Indians of any marked importiince occurred in Gen- 
eral Hancock's dejiartment during the remainder of this year. Extensive pre- 
parations had been unide to chastise the Indians, both in this department and in 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 83 

tliat of General Augur's on the nortli ; but about the date at which this narra- 
tive has arrived, a determined struggle between the adherents of tlie Indian ring 
and those advocating stringent measiu-es against the hostile tribes, resulted in 
tlie temporary ascendancy of the ft)rmer. Owing to this ascendancy, the mili- 
tary authorities were so hampered and restricted by instructions from Wash- 
ington as to be practically powerless to inaugurate oi* execute any decisive 
measures against the Indians. Their orders required them to simply act on 
the defensive. It may not be uninteresting to go back ta the closing month 
of the preceding year. The great event in Indian affairs of that montli and 
year was the Fort Phil Kearny massacre, which took place within a few miles 
of the fort bearing that name, and in which a detachment of troops, numbering 
in all ninety-four persons, were slain, and not (jp.e escaped or was spared to tell 
the tale. The alleged grievance of the Indians prompting them to this out- 
break was the establishment by the Government of a new road of travel 
to Montana, and the locating of militarj'- posts along this line. They 
claimed that the building and use of this road would drive all the game out of 
tlieir best hunting-grounds. When once war was determined upon by them, 
it was conducted with astonishing energy and marked success. Be- 
tween the 26th of July and the 21st of December of the same year, the Indians 
opposing the establishment of this new road were known to have killed ninety- 
one enlisted men, five officers, and fifty-eight citizens, besides wounding twenty 
more and capturing and driving off several hundred head of valuable stock. 
And during this period of less than six months, they appeared before Fort Phil 
Kearny in hostile array on fifty-one separate occasions, and attacked every 
train and individual attempting to pass over the Montana road. It has been 
stated officially that at the three posts established for the defence of the Mon- 
tiina road, there were the following reduced amounts of ammunition: Fort C. 
F. Smith, ten rounds per man; Fort Phil Kearny, foi"ty-five rounds per man, 
and Fort Reno, thirty rounds per man ; and that there were but twelve officers 
on duty at the three posts, laany of the enlisted men of which were raw re- 
cruits. The force being small, and the amount of labor necessai'y in building 
new posts being very great, but little opportunity could be had for drill or tar- 
get practice. The consequence was, the troops were totally lacking in the 
necessary preparation to make a successful fight. As the massacre at Fort 
Phil Kearny was one of the most complete as well as terrible butcheries con- 
nected with our entire Indian history, some of the details, as subsequently made 
evident, are here given. 

On the 6th of December the wood train was attacked by Indians about two 
miles from the fort. Colonel Fetterman, with about fifty mounted men, was 
sent to rescue the train. He succeeded in this, but only after a severe fight 
with the Indians and after suffering a loss of one officer (Lieutenant Bingham 
of the cavalry) and one sergeant, who wen-e decoyed from the main body into 
an ambuscade. This affair seems to have given the Indians great encourage- 
ment, and induced them to form their plans for the extensive massacre which 
was to follow. 

On the 21st the wood train was again assailed, and, as before, a party Avas 
sent out from the fort to its relief. The relieving party consisted of infantry 
.and cavalry, principally the former, numbering in all ninety-one men with 
three officers — CajDtain Brown of tlie infantiy. Lieutenant Grummond of the 
cavalry, and Colonel Fetterman of the infantrj' in command. 

Colonel Fetterman sallied forth promptly with his command to the rescue 
of the train. He moved out rapidly, keeping to the right of the wood road, for 



84 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

the purpose, as is supposed, of getting in rear of the attacking party. As he ad- 
vanced across the Piney a few Indians appeared on his front and flanks, and 
kept showing themselves just beyond rifle range until they finally disappeared 
beyond Lodge Trail ridge. Wlien Colonel Fetterman reached Lodge Trail 
ridge the picket signalled the fort that the Indians had retreated, and that the 
train had moved toward the timber. About noon Colonel Fetterman's com- 
mand, having thrown out skirmishers, disappeared over the crest of Lodge 
Trail ridge ; firing at once commenced and was heard distinctly at the fort. 
From a few scattering shots it increased in rapidity until it became a contin- 
uous and rapid fire of musketry. A medical officer was sent from the post to 
join the detachment, but was unal)le to do so, Indians being encountered on 
the way. After the firing had become quite heavy, showing that a severe en- 
gagement was taking place. Colonel Carrington, the commander of the post, 
sent an ofiicer and about seventy-five men to reinforce Colonel Fetterman's 
party. These reinforcements moved rapidly toward the point from which tlie 
sound of firing proceeded. The firing continued to be heard during their ad- 
vance, diminishing in rapidity and number of shots until they had reached a 
high summit overlooking the battle-field, when one or two shots closed all 
sound of conflict. From this summit a full view could be obtained of the Peno 
valley beyond, in which Fetterman's command was known to be, but not a 
single individual of this ill-fated band could be seen. Instead, however, the 
valley was seen to be overrun by Indians, estimated to number fully three 
tliousand warriors. Discovering the approach of the reinforcements, tlie In- 
dians beckoned them to come on, but without awaiting their arrival commenced 
retreating. The troojis then advanced to a point where the savages had been 
seen collected in a circle, and there found the dead naked bodies of Colonel 
Fetterman, Captain Brown, and about sixty-five of their men. All the bodies 
lay in a space not exceeding thirty-five feet in diameter. A few American 
horses lay dead near by, all with their heads toward the fort. This spot was by 
tlie roadside and beyond the summit of a hill rising to the east of Peno creek. 
The road after ascending this hill folloAvs the ridge for nearly three-quarters of a 
mile, and then descends abruptly to Peno valley. About midway feetween the 
point where these bodies lay and that where the road begins to descend was the 
dead body of Lieutenant Grummond; and at the point where the road leaves the 
ridge to descend to the Peno valley were the dead bodies of thi'ee citizens and a 
few of the old, long-tried, and experienced soldiers. Around this little group 
were found a gi-eat number of empty cartridge shells ; more than fifty were found 
near the body of a citizen who had used a Henry rifle; all going to sliow 
how stubbornly these men had fought, and that they had fought with telling 
effect on their enemies was evidenced by the fact that within a few hilndred 
yards in front of their position ten Indian ponies lay dead, and near by tliem' 
Avere sixty-five pools of dark and clotted blood. Among the records of the 
Indian Department in Washington there is on file a report of one of the Peace 
Commissioners sent to investigate the circumstances of tliis frightful slaughter. 
Among the conclusions given in this report, it is stated that the Indians were 
massed to resist Colonel Fetterman's advance along Peno creek on botli sides 
of the road ; that Colonel Fetterman formed his advanced lines on the sum- 
mit of the hill overlooking the creek and valley, Avith a reserve near where the 
large number of dead bodies lay; that the Indians in large force attacked him 
vigorously in this position, and were successfully resisted for half an hour or 
more ; that the command then being short of ammunition and seized with a 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 85 

panic at this event and the great numevical superiority of the Indians, at- 
tempted to retreat toward the fort; that the mountaineers and old soldiers, 
who had learned that a movement from Indians in an engagement was equiv- 
alent to death, remained in their first position and were killed there ; tliat im- 
mediately upon the commencement of the retreat the Indians charged upon 
and surrounded the party, who Goiild not now be formed by their officers and 
were immediately killed. Only six men of the whole command were killed 
by balls, and two of these. Colonel Fettermau and Captain Brown, no doubt in- 
flicted tliis death upon themselves, or each other, by their own liands, for both 
were shot through tlie left temple, and powder was burnt into the skiu and 
flesh about the wound. Tiiese officers had often asserted that they would never 
be taken alive by Indians. 

The difficulty, as further explained by this commissioner, was that the 
officer commanding the Phil Kearny district was furnished no more troops for 
a state of war than had been provided for a state of profound peace. " In re- 
gions where all was peace, as at Laramie in November, twelve cojnpanies were 
stationed ; while in regions where all was war, as at Phil Kearny, there were 
only five companies allowed." The same criticism regarding the distribution 
of troops would be just if applied to a much later date. 

The Indians invariably endeavored to conceal their exact losses, but they 
acknowledged afterwards to have suffered a loss of twelve killed on the field, 
sixty severely Avounded, several cf whom afterwards died, and many others 
permanently maimed. They also lost twelve horses killed outright, and fifty- 
six so badly wounded that they died within twenty-four hours. 

The intelligence of this massacre was received tlu'oughout the country with 
universal horror, and awakened a bitter feeling toward the savage perpetra- 
tors. The Government was implored to inaugurate measures looking to their 
2>rompt punishment. Tliis feeling seemed to be shared by all classes. The 
following desixxtch, sent by General Slierman to General Grant, immediately 
upon receipt of the news of the massacre, briefly but characteristically ex- 
presses the views of the Lieutenant-General of the Army 

St. Louis, Dec. 28, 1866, 
General : Just arrived in time to attend tlie funeral of my Adjutant-General, Sawyer. I 
have given general instructions to General Cooke about the Sioux. I do not yet undei-stand 
how the massacre of Colonel Fetterman's party could have been so complete. We must 
act with vindictive earnestness against the Sioux, even to their extermination, men, women, 
and children. Nothing less will reach the root of the case. 

(Signed) W. T. Sherman, Lieutenant-General. 

The old trouble between the War and Interior Departments, as to which 
should retain control of the Indian question, was renewed with increased vigor. 
Tlie Army accused the Indian Department, and justly too, of furnisliing tlie 
Indians arms and ammunition. Prominent exponents of either side of tlie 
question were not slow in taking up their pens in advocacy of tlieir respective 
views. In the succeeding chapter testimony will be offered from those high 
in authority, now the higliest, showing that among those who had given the 
eubjeet tlie most thoughtful attention the opinion was unanimous in favor of the 
" abolition of the civil Indian agents and licensed traders," and of the transfer 
of the Indian Bureau from the Interior Department back to the War Depart- 
Dient, where it originally belonged. 



X. 



THE winter of 1867-68 was a period of comparative idleness and quiet, so 
far as tlie troops guarding tlie military iK)sts on the Plains and frontier 
were concerned. The Indians began their pei'iodical depredations against the 
frontier settlers and overland emigrants and travellers early in the spring of 
1868, and continued them with but little interruption or hindrance from any 
quarter until late in the summer and fall of that year. 

General Sully, an officer of considerable reputation as an Indian fighter, 
was jjlaced in command of the district of the Upper Arkansas, which embraced 
the Kansas frontier and those military posts on the central plains most intimately 
connected with the hostile tribes. General Sully concentrated a portion of the 
troops of his command, consisting of detachments of tlie Seventh and Tenth 
Cavalry and Third Infantry, at points on the Arkansas river, and set on foot 
various scouting expeditions, but all to no purpose. The Indians continued as 
usual not only to elude the military forces directed against them, but to keep 
up their dej)redations ujjon the settlers of the frontier. 

Great excitement existed along the border settlements of Kansas and Col- 
oi'ado. The frequent massacres of the frontiersmen and utter destruction of 
their homes created a very bitter feeling on the part of the citizens of Kansas 
toward the savages, and from the Governor of the State down to its humblest 
citizen appeals were made to the authorities of the general government to 
give protection against the Indians, or else allow the people to take the matter 
into their own hands and pursue retaliatory measures against tlieir liereditary 
enemies. General Sheridan, then in command of that military department, 
with headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, was fully alive to the respon- 
sibilities of his position, and in his usual etlective manner set about oi'ganizing 
victory. 

As pretended but not disinterested friends of the Indians frequently acquit the 
latter of committing unprovoked attacks on helpless settlers and others, who 
have never in the slightest degree injured them, and often deny even that 
the Indians have been guilty of any hostile acts Avhich justify the adoption of 
military measures to insure the protection and safety of our frontier settle- 
ments, the following tabular statement is here given. This statement is taken 
from official records on file at the headquarters Military Division of the Mis- 
souri, and, as it states, gives only those murders and other depredations which 
were officially reported, and the white people mentioned as killed are exclu- 
sive of those slain in warf:tre. I am particular in giving time, place, etc., of 
each occurrence, so that those Avho hitherto have believed the Indian to be a 
creature who could do no wrong may have ample opportunity to judge of the 
correctness of my statements. Many other murders by the Indians during 
this period no doubt occurred, but, occurring as they did over a wide and 
sparsely settled tract of country, were never reported to the military authori- 
ties. 

The mass of the trooj^s being concentrated and employed along the branches 
of the Upper Arkansas under General Sully, thus leaving the vallej-s of the 
Republican, Solomon, and Smoky Hill rivers comparatively without troops, and 
the valleys of the Upper Republican being, as we have in previous chapters 
hiarned, a favorite resort and camping-ground for the hostile tribes of the up- 



LIFE ON THE PLAIXS. 



87 



TABULAR STATEMENT OP MURDERS, OUTRAGES, ROBBERIES, AND DEPREDATIONS COMMITTED 
BY INDIANS IN THE DEl'ARTMENT OE THE MISSOL'IU AND NUKTUEKN TEXAS, IN 18t;S (E.\CLU- 
SIVE OF MILITAKY ENGAGEMENTS), AND OEFICIALLY KEPOKTED TO HEADQUAKTEKS DE- 
VAKTMENT OF THE MISSOURI. 





PLACE. 


WHITE PEOI'LE. 


LIVE 


a 

§'6 

-co 
^ '^ 
^ a 
« a 

S 

M 



w 

6 

5 


-a 


.5 ■? 
'3 £ 

SI'S 


"^ 









•6 

at 



CO 







s 


c 

4 
5 


CAP- 
TURED. 


STOCK 
STOLEN. 


ll 

13 « 


DATE. 




p 

s 




s 

5 


a . 
a CO 


a 

M 










1868. 
August 10. . .. 
August 12. ... 
August 12.... 

August 12 

August 12. ... 

August 14 

August 22 

August 23"" 
August 23.... 
August 23.... 








Settlements on Solomon River. 


15 

2 


2 












"3 

132 


10 


















Wright's Camp, near Dodge. .. 
















Granny Creek, on Kepiiblicau. 

Sheridan City 

Northern Texas 


1 

""s 


1 






























12 
300 






















1 










3 

2 
















25 

"is 












Pond Creek aud Lake Station. . 
Bent's Fort 


"4 




1 








August 23.... 

August 24 

August 27 

August 27 

August 27 










3 
' 1 


1 








1 








































la 
























3 














'266 

"is 


50 
40 
30 


.... 




1 






August 31 

September 1. 
September 1. 






West of Lake Station 


2 
3 
4 

'"4 

"2.5 
2 

17c 
6 


'3 
'3 


2 

's 

26 
2 




36 






][ 




Spanish Fort, Texas 

Little Coon Creek 

Colorado City 

Hugo s Springs 

Colorado Territory 

Turkey Creek, near Sheridan. . 




September 1. 
September 2. 
September 3. 
September 5. 


"5 


"i 










Sept. 6 and 7. 












76 
12 














September 8. 
September 8. 


75 


"i 




1 






Between Slieridan and Wallace. 




September 9. 
September 10. 
September 11. 
September 12. 










Lake Creek 

Bent's Old Fort 




















81 
85 


"i 








September 17. 
September 17 
September 19. 
September 29. 

October 2 

October 2..<, 


Ella Station 

Fort Buscom. . , 

Big Timber's Station 


3 
2 

"i 


i 

"3 
1 






i 


id 


id 


id 


"30 




1 

"i 

1 
1 










Fort Zarah 

Between Larned aud Dodge... 
Near Fort Dodge 


"56 
"7 

""s 


160 

"68 










October 4 


Asher Creek Settlement 

Purgatory Creek 


"3s 












October 7 

October 10... 
October 13... 
October 6 — 
Octol)er 14... 




































"i 


'2 

*5 
2 




Sand Creek 

Prairie Dog Creek 

Fisher and Yocucy Creeks 

Fort Zara h 

Griiinell Station 

Coon Creek 


"i 

4 
2 


i 

1 










le 

i 


le 


26 








October 15. .. 










October 30... 
November 7. 
November 19. 
November 19. 
November 20. 
November 25. 
January* .... 
February* ... 

Mayt 

Junet 

July! 
























'.!!! 




Little Coon Creek 


1 

1 


































2/ 






















Indian Territory 


7 




'9 








14 


20 










2 


., 














5A 


50 




















3 




., 






1 
4 




41 


3 


u 


"' 


4 


3^- 


















958 


24 


11 


~ 


11 




Total 


15416 


24 669 


1 



















a This scout vcas WiUiam Comstock. 

b One of these three women was outraged by thirteen Indians, who afterward killed and 
Bcali)eil her, leaving a hatchet stuck in her head. They then killed her four little children. 

c Fifteen of these persons were burned to death by the Indians, who attacked the ti-ain to 
which they belonged. 

a TL>ese persons were Mr. Bassett, Ms wife, and chUd. The Indians having plundered and' 



88 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

per jjlains, Geueral Sheridan determined that, Avliile devoting fr.ll attention to 
the Kiowas, Comanches, Apaehes, Arapahoes, and Sonthern Cheyennes, to 
be found south of the Arkansas, he would also keep an ej-e out for the Sioux, 
Upper Cheyennes, and Arapahoes, and the " Dog Soldiers," usually infesting 
the valleys of the Upper Republican and Solomon rivers. The " Dog Soldiers " 
were a band of warriors principally composed of Cheyennes, but made up of the 
turbulent and uncontrolhible spirits of all the tribes. Neither they nor their 
leaders had ever consented to the ratification of any of the treaties to which their 
brothers of the other tribes had agreed. Never satisfied except when at war 
with the white man, they were by far the most troublesome, daring, and war- 
like band to be found on the Plains. Their warriors were all fine-looking 
braves of magnificent physique, and in appearance and demeanor more nearly 
conformed to the ideal warrior than those of any other tribe. Ho-\v they 
came by their name, the " Dog Soldiers," I never was able to learn satisfactorilj'. 
One explanation is, that they are principally members of the Cheyenne tribe, 
and were at first known as the Cheyenne soldiers. The name of the tribe 
" Cheyenne " was originally Chien, the French word for dog ; hence the term 
•' Dog Soldiers." 

To operate eflectually against these bands General Sheridan was without 
the necessary troops. Congress, however, had authorized the employment of 
detachments of frontier scouts to be recruited from among the daring spirits 
always to be met with on the border. It was upon a force raised from this 
class of our western population that General Sheridan relied for material as- 
sistance. 

Having decided to employ frontiersmen to assist in punishing the Indians, 
the next question was the selection of a suitable leader. The choice, most 
fortunately, full upon General George A. Forsyth (" Sandy "), then Acting In- 
spector-General of the Department of Missouri, who, eager to render his coun- 
try an important service and not loath to share in the danger and excitement 
attendant upon such an enterprise, set himself energetically to work to raise 
and equip his command for the field. But little time was required, under 
Forsyth's stirring zeal, to raise the required number of men. It was wisely de- 
cided to limit the number of frontiersmen to fifty. This enabled Forsyth to 
choose onlj-good men, and the size of the detachment, considering that they were 
to move without ortiinary transportation — in fact were to almost adt)pt the 
Indian style of warfare — was as large as could be without being cumbersome. 
Last but not least, it was to be composed of men who, from their leader 
down, were intent on accomplishing an important jjurpose; they were not 
out on any holiday tour or pleasure excursion. Their object was to find In- 
dians ; a diflicult matter for a large force to accomplish, because the Indians 

burned Bassett's house, took the inmates captive ; but Mrs. Bassett, being weak and unable to 
travel, was stripped, and, together with her child (two days old), left ou the praii-ie. Mr. Bassett 
■ is supposed to have been murdered. 

e >Us. Blinu and child, afterward murdered by the Indiana during Custer's attack on Black 
Kettle's camp. 

/ These scouts were Marshall and Davis. 

g These fourteen children were afterward frozen to death while in captivity. 

k Two of these children were given up to Colonel Leavenworth ; the remaining three were 
taken to Kansas. 

i Th«se tliildron belonged to Mr. Mcllroy. 

* Committed by Kiowa Indians. 

T Couunittt^d by Comanche Indians. 

X Additional murders and outrages committed by Indians, not heretofore enumerated, reported 
• by P. McCusker, U. S. Interpreter, and S. T. Walkley, Acting Indian Agent. 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 89 

ive the first to discover their presence and take themselves out of the way ; 
■whereas with a small or moderate-sized detachment there is some chance, as 
Forsyth afterwards learned, of finding Indians. 

Among all the officers of tlie army, old or young, no one could have been 
found better adapted to become the leader of an independent expedition, such 
as this was proposed to be, than General Forsyth. This is more particularly 
true considering the experiences whicli awaited this detachment. I liad learned 
to know him well when we rode together in the Shenandoah Valh^y, some- 
times in one direction and sometimes, but rarely, in the other; and afterwards, 
in the closing struggle around Petersburg and Richmond, when his chief had 
been told to "press things," General Forsyth, "Sandy" as his comrades fiimil- 
iarly termed him, was an important member of the " press." In fact, one of 
the best terms to describe him by is irrepressible ; for, no matter how defeat or 
disaster miglit stare us in the face, and, as I have intimated, cause us to ride 
" the other " way, " Sandy " always contrived to be of good cheer and to be 
able to see the coming of a better day. This quality came in good play in the 
terrible encounter which I am about to describe. 

The frontiersmen of the Kansas border, stirred up by numerous massacres 
committed in their midst by the sav.iges, were only too eager and willing to 
join in an enterprise which promised to afibrd them an opportunity to visit 
just punishment upon their enemies. 

Thirty selected men were j)rocured at Fort Harker, Kansas, and twenty 
moi'o at Fort Hays, sixty miles further west. In four days the command was 
armed, mounted, and equipped, and at once took the field. Lieutenant F. H. 
Beeclier, of the Third Regular Infantr}^ a nephew of the distinguished divine 
of the same name, and one of tlie alilest and best young officers on the frontier, 
was second in command ; and a surgeon was found in the person of Dr. John 
S. Movers, of Hays City, Kansas, a most competent man in his profession, 
and one who had had a large experience during the war of the rebellion as 
surgeon of one of the volunteer regiments from the State of New York. 
Sliarpe Grover, one of the best guides and scouts the Plains afforded, was the 
guide of the expedition, while many of the men had at different times served 
in the regular and volunteer forces; for example, the man selected to perform 
the duties of First Sergeant of the detachment was Brevet Brigadier-General 
W. H. H. McCall, United States Volunteers, who commanded a brigade at the 
time the Confederata forces attempted to break the Fedei'al lines at Fort Hell, 
in front of Petersburg, in the early sj^ring of 1865, and was breveted for gal- 
lantry on that occasion. As a general tiling the men composing the party 
were just the class eminently qualified to encounter the dangers which were 
soon to confront them. They were brave, active, hard}', and energetic, and, 
while they required a tight rein held over them, were when properly handled 
capable of accomplishing about all that any equal number of men could do 
under the same circumstances. 

The party left Fort Hayes on the 29th day of August, 1868, and, under spe- 
cial instructions from Major-General Sheridan, commanding the department, 
took a north-westerly course, scouting the country to the north of tlie Saline 
river, crossed the south fork of the Solomon, Bow creek, north fork of tlie 
Solomon, Prairie Dog creek, and then well out toward the Republican river, 
and, swinging around in the direction of Fort Wallace, made that post on the 
eighth day from their departure. Notliing was met worthy of notice, but there 
were frequent indications of large camps of Indians which had evidently been 
abandoned only a few days or weeks before the arrival of the command. 



90 LIFE OX THE PL\INS. 

Upon aiTivin^^ at Fovt Wallace, General Forsyth communicated with Gen 
eral Sheridan and proceeded to refit his command. 

On the morning of September 10, a small war party of Indians attacked a 
train near Slieridan, a small I'ailroad town some eighty miles beyond Fort Wal- 
lace, killed two teamsters and ran off a few cattle. As soon as informa- 
tion of this reached Fort Wallace, Forsyth started with his command for the 
town of Sheridan, where he took the trail of the Indians and followed it until 
dark. Tlie next morning it was resumed, until tlie Indians finding themselves 
closely pursued, scattered in many directions and tlie trail became so obscure 
as to be lost. Determined, however, to find the Indians this time, if they were 
in the country, he pushed on to Short Nose creek, hoping to find them in that 
vicinity. Carefully scouting in evei'y direction for tlie trail and still heading 
north as far as the Republican river, the command finally struck the trail of 
a small war party on the south bank of that stream, and followed it up to the 
forks of that river. Tliis is familiar ground perhaps to some of my readers, as 
it was here Pawnee Killer and his band attacked our camp early one morning 
in tlie summer of '67, and hurried me from my tent without allowing me time 
to attend to nij' toilet. Continuing on the trail and crossing to the north bank, 
Forsyth found the trail growing constantly larger, as various smaller ones en- 
tered it from the south and north, and finally it developed into a broad and 
well-beaten road, along which large droves of cattle and horses had been 
driven. This trail led up the Arickaree fork of the Republican river, and con- 
stant indications of Indians, in the way of moccasins, jerked buQ'alo meat, and 
other articles, were found every few miles, but no Indians "were seen. On the 
evening of the eighth day from Fort Wallace, the command halted nbout five 
o'clock in the afternoon and went into camp .at or near a little island in the 
river, a mere sand-spit of earth formed by the stream dividing at a little rift of 
earth that was rather more gravelly than the sand in its immediate vicinity, 
and coming together again about a hundred yards further down the stream, 
whicli just here was about eight feet wide and two or three inches deep. 

The watercourses in this part of the country in the dry season are mere 
threads of water meandering along the broad sandy bed of the river, which 
during the months of May and June is generally full to its banks, and at that 
time capable of floating an ordinary ship, while later in the season there is not 
enough water to float the smallest row-boat. In fact, in many places the stream 
sinks into the sand and disappears for a considerable distance, finally making 
its way up to the surface and flowing on until it again disappears and reap- 
pears many times in the course of a long day's journey. 

Encamping upon the bank of the sti'eam at this jjoint — which at that time 
was supposed by the party to be Delaware creek, but which was afterwards 
discovered to be Arickaree fork of the llepuljlican river — the comuuvnd made 
the usual preparations for passing the night. This j^oint was but a few marches 
from the scene of Kidder's massaci'e. Having already been out from Fori 
Wallace eiglitdays, and not taking wagons with tliem, their supi)lies l)egan to 
run low, although they had been husbanded Avith great care. During the last 
three days game had been very scarce, which fact convinced Forsyth and his 
\)iivty that the Indians whose trail they were following had scoured the coun- 
try and driven ofl" every kind of game by their hunting parties. The following 
day would see the command out of supplies of all kinds ; iMit feeling assured that 
he was within striking distance of the Indians, Forsyth determined to push on 
until he found them, and fight them even if he could not whip them, in order 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 91 

tliat they might realize tliat tiieir rendezvous was discovered, and that the 
Govenunent was at last in earnest when it said that tliey were to be punished 
for tlieir depredations on the settlements. 

After posting their pickets and jjartaking of the plainest of suppers, For- 
sj'tli's little party disposed of themselves on the ground to sleej?, little dreaming 
who was to sound their reveille in so unceremonious a manner. 

At dawn on the following day, September 17, 1868, the guard gave the 
alarm " Indians." Instantly every man sjjrang to his feet and, witli the true 
instinct of the frontiersman, grasped his rifle with one hand while with the 
other he seized his lariat, that the Indians might not stampede tlie horses. 
Six Indians dashed up toward the 23art3% rattling bells, shaking buflalo robes, 
and liring their guns. The four pack mules belonging to the party broke away 
and were last seen galloping over the hills. Three other animals made their 
escape, as they had only been hobbled, in dii*ect violation of the orders which 
directed that all the animals of the command should be regularly picketed to 
a stake or picket-pin, firmly driven into the ground. A few shots caused the 
Indians to sheer oli" and disappear in a gallop over the hills. Several of the 
men started in pursuit, but were instantly ordered to rejoin the command, 
which was ordered to saddle up with all iJossible haste, Forsyth feeling satis- 
fied that the attempt to stampede the stock was but the prelude to a gene- 
ral and more determined attack. Scarcely were the saddles thrown on the 
horses and the girths tightened, when Grover, the guide, placing his hand on 
Forsyth's shoulder, gave vent to his astonishment as follows : " heavens. 
General, look at the Indians ! ''"' Well miglit he be excited. From every direc- 
tion they dashed toAvard the band. Over the hills, from the west and north, 
along the river, on the opposite bank, everywhere and in every direction tliey 
made their appearance. Finely mounted, in full war paint, their long scalp 
locks braided with eagles' feathers, and with all the paraphernalia of a barbar- 
ous war party — with wild whoops and exultant shouts, on they came. 

There was but one thing to do. Realizing that they had fallen into a trap, 
Forsyth, who had faced danger too often to hesitate in an emergency, deter- 
mined that if it came to a Fort Fetterman afiair, described in a preceding chap- 
ter, he should at least make the enemy bear their share of the loss. He or- 
dered his men to lead their horses to the island, tie them to the few bushes that 
were gi-owing there in a circle, throw themselves upon the ground in the same 
form, and make the best fight they could for their lives. In less time than it 
takes to pen these words, the order was put into execution. Three of the best 
shots in the party took position in the grass under the bank of the river which 
covered the north end of the island ; the others formed a circle inside of the 
line of animals, and throwing themselves upon the ground began to reply to 
the fire of the Indians, which soon became hot and galling in the extreme. 
Throwing themselves from their horses, the Indians crawled up to within a 
short distance of the island, and opened a steady and well-directed fire upon 
the party. Armed- with the best quality of guns, many of them having the 
latest pattern breech-loaders with fixed ammunition (as proof of this many 
thousand empty shells of Spencer and Henry rifle ammunition were found on 
the ground occupied by the Indians after the fight), they soon made sad havoc 
among the men and horses. As it grew lighter, and the Indians could be 
distinguished, Grover expressed the greatest astonishment at the number of 
warriors, which he placed at nearly one thousand. Other members of tlie i^irty 
estimated them at even a greater number. Forsyth expressed the opinion that 



92 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

there could uot be moi'c than four or five hundred, but in this it seems he wag 
mistaken, as some of tlie Brules, Sioux, and Cheyennes have since told him that 
their war party was nearly nine hundred strong, and was composed of Brules, 
Sioux, Cheyennes, and Dog Soldiers; furthermore, that they had been watching 
him for five days previous to their attack, and had called in all the warriors 
tliey could get to their assistance. The men of Forsj'th's party began covering 
themselves at once, by using case and pocket knives in the gravelly sand, and 
soon had thrown up quite a little earthwork consisting of detached mounds 
in the form of a circle. About this time Forsyth was wounded by a Minic 
ball, which, striking him in the right thigh, ranged upward, inflicting an ex- 
ceedingly painful wound. Two of his men had been killed, and a number of 
others wounded. Leaning over to give directions to some of his men, who 
were firing too rapidly, and in fact becoming a little too nervous for their own 
good, Forsyth was again wounded, this time in the left leg, the ball breaking 
and badly shattering the bone midway between the knee and ankle. About 
the same time Dr. Movers, the surgeon of the party, who, owing to the hot fire 
of tlie Indians, was unable to render surgical aid to his wounded comrades, 
had seized his trusty i-ifle and was doing capital service, was hit in the temple 
by a bullet, and never spoke but one intelligible word again. 

Matters were now becoming desperate, and notliing but cool, steady fight- 
ing would avail to mend tliem. The hills surrounding the immediate vicinity 
of the figkt were filled with women and children, who were chanting war songs 
and filling the air with whoops and yells. The medicine men, a sort of high 
priests, and older warriors rode around outside of the combatants, being care- 
ful to keep out of range, and encouraged their young braves by beating a 
drum, shouting Indian chants, and using derisive words toward their adversa- 
ries, whom they cursed roundly for skulking like wolves, and dared to come out 
and figlit like men. 

Meantime the scouts were slowly but surely " counting game," and more 
tlian one Indian fell to the rear badly wounded l)y the rifles of the frontiersmen. 
Within an hour after the ojiening of the fight, the Indians were fairly frotliing 
at the moutli with rage at tlie unexpected resistance they met, while the scouts 
had now settled down to earnest work, and obeyed to the letter the orders of 
Forsyth, whose oft reiterated command was, " Fire slowly, aim well, keep 
yourselves covered, and, above all, don't throw away a single cartridge." 

Taken all in all, witli a very few exceptions, the men behaved superbl3\ 
Obedient to every word of command, cool, j^lucky, determined, and fully real- 
izing the character of their foes, they were a match for their enemies tluis far 
at every point. About nine o'clock in the morning the last liorse belonging to 
the scouts was killed, and one of the red skins was heard to exclaim in tolera- 
bly good Englisli, "There goes the last damned hoi'se anyliow; " a proof that 
some of the savages had at some time been intimate with the whites. 

Shortly after nine o'clock a portion of the Indians began to form in a i-a- 
vine just bcloAV the foot of the island, and soon about one hundred and twenty 
Dog Soldiers, the " banditti of the Plains," supported by some three hiuidrcd 
or more other mounted men, made their appearance, drawn up just beyond 
rifle shot below the island, and headed by the famous cliief "Roman Nose," 
pi-epared to charge the scouts. Superbly mounted, almost naked, althougli in 
full war dress, and painted in the most liideous manner, with their rifles in 
their hands, and formed with a front of about sixty men, they awaited the sig- 
nal of their chief to charge, with apparently the greatest confidence. Roman 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 93 

Nose :i(l(]ressetl a few words to the mounted warriors, and filmost immediately 
afterward tlie dismounted Indians surrounding the island poured a perfect 
shower of bullets into the midst of Forsyth's little party. Realizing that a crisis 
was at hand, and hot work was before him, Forsyth told his men to reload 
every rifle and to take and load the rifles of the killed and wounded of the par- 
ty, and not to fire a shot until o)"dered to do so. 

For a few moments tlie galling fire of the Indians rendered it impossible for 
any of the scQuts to raise or expose any part of their persons. This was pre- 
cisely the efi'ect which the Indians desired to produce by the fire of their rifle- 
men. It was this that the mounted warriors, under the leadership of Roman 
Nose, were waiting for. The Indians had planned their assault in a manner 
very similar to that usually adopted by civilized troops in assailing a fortified 
place. The fire of the Indian riflemen performed the part »jf the artillery on 
such occasions, in silencing the fire of the besieged and preparing the way for 
tlie assaulting column. 

Seeing that the little garrison was stunned by the heavy fire of the dis- 
mounted Indians, and rightly judging that now, if ever, was the proper time 
to charge them, Roman Nose and his band of mounted warriors, with a wild, 
ringing war-Avhoop, echoed by the women and children on the hills, started 
forward. On they came, jDresenting even to the brave men awaiting the 
charge a most superb sight. Brandishing their guns, echoing back the cries 
of encouragement of their women and children on the surrounding hills, and 
confident of victory, they rode bravely and recklessly to the assault. Soon 
they Avere within the range of the rifles of their friends, and of course the 
dismounted Indians had to slacken their fire for fear of hitting their own war- 
riors. This was the opportunity for the scouts, and they were not slow to 
seize it. "Now," shouted Forsyth. "Now," echoed Beecher, McCall, and 
Grover; and the scouts, springing to their knees, and casting their ej'es coolly 
along the barrels of their rifles, opened on the advancing savages as deadly a 
fire as the same number of men ever yet sent forth from an equal number of 
rifles. Unchecked, undaunted, on dashed the warriors ; steadily rang the ciear, 
sharp reports of the rifles of the frontiersmen. Roman Nose, the chief, is seen to 
fall dead from his hoi-se, then Medicine Man is killed, and for an instant the 
column of braves, now within ten feet of the scouts, hesitates — falters. A 
ringing cheer from the scouts, Avho perceive the efi'ect of their well-directed 
fire, and the Indians begin to break and scatter in every direction, imwilling to 
rush to a hand-to-hand struggle with the men who, although outnumbered, yet 
knew how to make such effective use of their rifles. A fcAV more shots from 
the frontiersmen and the Indians are forced back beyond range, and their first 
attack ends in defeat. Forsytli turns to Grover anxiously and inquires, "Can 
tliey do better than that, Grover.^" "I have been on the Plains, General, 
since a boy, and never saw such a charge as that before. I think they have 
done their level best," Avas the reply. " All right," responds " Sandy" ; " then 
Ave are good for them." 

So close did the advance warriors of the attacking column come in the 
charge, that several of their dead bodies now lay within a few feet of the in- 
trenchments. The scouts had also suffered a heavy loss in this attack. The 
greatest and most irreparable was that of Lieutenant Beecher, Avho was mor- 
tally Avounded, and died at sunset of that day, He Avas one of the most relia- 
ble and efiicient ofiieers doing duty on the Plains. Modest, energetic, and 
imbitious in his profession, had he lived he undoubtedly Avould have had a bril- 
liant future before him* and had opportunity such as is oflered by a great 



94 lifp: on the plains. 

war ever have occurred, Lieutenant Beecher would have Avitliout doubt acliieved 
great distinction. 

The Indians still kept up a continuous fire from their dismounted warriors ; 
but as the scouts by this time were well covered by their miniature earth- 
works, it did little execution. At two o'clock in the afternoon the savages 
again attempted to carry the island by a mounted charge, and again at sun- 
set ; but having been deprived of their best and most fearless leader by the 
fall of Roman Nose, they Avere not so daring or impulsive as in the first cliarge, 
and were botli times repulsed witli heavy losses. At dark they ceased firing, 
.and withdrew their forces for the night. This gave the little garrison on the 
island an opportunity to take a breathing spell, and Forsj^th to review the situ- 
ation and sum up how he had fared. The result was not consoling. His trusted 
Lieutenant Beecher was lying dead by his side ; his surgeon. Movers, Avas mor- 
tallj' wounded; two of his men killed, four mortally wounded, four severely, 
and ten slightly. Here, out of a total of fifty-one, were twenty-three killed and 
wounded. His own condition, his right thigh fearfully lacerated, and his left 
leg badly broken, only rendered tlie other discouraging circumstances doubly 
so. As before stated, the Indians had killed all of his horses early in the 
fight. His supplies were exhausted, and tliere Avas no Avay of dressing the 
Avounds of himself or comrades, as the medical stores had been captured by 
the Indians. He Avas about one hundred and ten miles from the nearest jjost, 
and savages Avere all around him. The outlook could scared}' have been less 
cheering. But Forsyth's disposition and pluck incline him to speculate^ more 
upon that Avhich is, or may be gained, than to repine at that Avhich is irrcA'oca- 
bly lost. This predominant trait in his character uoav came in good play. In- 
stead of Avasting time in vain regrets over the advantages gained by liis ene- 
mies, he quietly set about looking up the chances in his favor. And, let the 
subject be Avhat it may, I Avill match " Sandy " " against an equal number " for 
making a favorable showing of the side Avhich he espouses or adA'ocates. To 
his credit account lie congratulated himself and comrades, first upon the fact 
that they had beaten off their foes; second, Avater could be had inside their 
intrenchments by digging a fcAv feet beloAV the surface ; then for food " horse 
and mule meat," to use Sandy's expression, " Avas lying around loose in any 
quantity; " and last, but most important of all, he had plenty of ammunition. 
Upon these circumstances and facts Forsyth built high hopes of successfully 
contending against any rencAved assaults of the saA^ages. 

Two men, Trudeau and Stillwell, botli good scouts, and familiar Avith the 
Plains, were selected to endeaA'or to make their Avay through the cordon of In- 
dians and proceed to Fort Wallace, one hundred and ten miles distant, and re- 
port the condition 6f Forsyth and party, and act as guides to the trooj^s Avhich 
Avould be at once sent to the relief of the besieged scouts. It Avas a perilous 
mission, and called for the display of intrepid daring, cool judgment, and un- 
flinching resolution, besides a thorough knowledge of tlie country, as much of 
their journey Avould necessarily be made during the darkness of night, to 
avoid discovery bj^ Avandering bands of Indians, who, no doubt, Avould be on 
the alert to intercept just such parties going for relief. Forsyth's selection of 
the two men named Avas a judicious one. Stillwell I afterAvards kncAV Avell, 
having emploj'cd him as scout Avith my command for a long period. At tiie 
time referred to, howcA^er, lie Avas a mere beardless boy of perhaijs nineteen 
years, possessing a trim, litlie figure, Avhicli Avas set oft' to great advantage by 
the jaunty suit of buckskin which he Avore, cut and fringed according to the 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 95 

h'lie style o'. t!ie frontiersman. In his waist-belt he carried a large-sized revol- 
ver and a hunting knife. These, witli his rifle, constituted his equi2)ment. A 
capital shot whether afoot or on horseback, and a perfect horseman, this beard- 
less boy on more than one occasion proved himself a dangerous foe to the wily 
red man. We shall not take final leave of Stillvvell in this chapter. 

These two men, Trudeau and Stillwell, after receiving Forsytli's instruc- 
tions in regard to tlieir dangerous errand, and being provided with his com- 
pass and map, started as soon as it was sufficiently dark on their long, weary 
tramp over a wild, desert country, thickly infested Avith deadly enemies. After 
their departure the wounded were brought in, tlie dead animals unsaddled, and 
the horse blankets used to make tlie wounded as comfortable as possible. The 
earthworks were strengthened b}- using the dead animals and saddles. A Avell 
was dug inside tlie intrenchments, and large quantities of iiorse and mule meat 
were cut ofl" and buried in the sand to prevent it from putrefying. It began to 
rain, and the wounded were rendered less feverish by their involuntary but 
welcome bath. 

As was expected, the night passed without incident or disturbance from the 
savages ; but early the next morning the fight was renewed by the Indians 
again surrounding the island as before, and opening fire from the rifles of tlieir 
dismounted warriors. They did not attempt to charge the island as they had 
done tlie previous day, when tlieir attempts in this direction had cost them too 
dearlj'; but they were none the less determined and eager to overpoAver the 
little band which had been the cause of such heavy loss to them already. The 
scouts, thanks to their efforts during the night, were now well protected, and 
suffered but little from the fire of the Indians, while the latter, being more ex- 
posed, paid tlie penalty whenever affording the scouts a chance with their 
rifles. The day .was spent Avithout any decided demonstration on the part of 
the red men, except to keep up as constant a fire as possible on tlie scouts, and 
ta endeavor to provoke the latter to reply as often as possible, the object, no 
doubt, being to induce the frontiei'smen to exhaust their supply of ammunition. 
But they were not to be led into this trap; each cartridge they estimated as 
worth to them one Indian, and nothing less Avould satisfy them. 

On the night of the 18th two more men were selected to iiroceed to Fort 
Wallace, as it Avas not IcnoAvn Avhetlier Trudeau and Stillwell had made their 
Avay safe]}' through the Indian lines or not. The last tAA^o selected, hoAvever, 
failed to elude the Avatchful eyes of the Indians, and Avere driven back to the 
island. This placed a gloomy look upon the probable fate of Trudeau and 
Stillwell, and left the little garrison in anxious doubt not only as to the safety 
of the tAVO daring messengers, but as to tlieir oAvn final relief. On the morn- 
ing of the 19th the Indians promptly rencAved the conflict, but Avith less energy 
than before. They evidently did not desire or intend to come to close quarters 
again Avitli their less numerous but more determined antagonists, but aimed as 
on the previous day to provoke a harmless fire from the scouts, and then, after 
exliausting their ammunition in this manner, overAvhelm them by mass of 
numbers, and finish them Avitli tomahaAvk and scalping knife. This style of 
tactics did not operate as desired. There is but little doubt that some of 
tlie Indians Avho had participated in the massacre of Fetterman and his party 
a few months before, Avhen three officers ami ninety-one men were killed out- 
right, were also present and took part in the att.ack upon Forsyth and his 
party; and they must have been not a little surprised to Avitness the stubborn 
defence oflered by tins little party, Avliich, even at the beginning, numbered but 
little over fifty men. 



96 LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

About noon the women and children, who had been constant and excited 
spectators of the fight from the neighboring liilltops, began to withdraw. It is 
rare indeed tliat in an attack by Indians tlieir women and chikh'eu are seen. 
They are usually sent to a place of safety until the result of the contest is 
known, but in this instance, with the overwhelming numbers of the savages and 
the recollection of the massacre of Fetterman and his party, there seemed to 
the Indians to be but one result to be expected, and that a complete, perhaps 
bloodless viotoi'y for them ; and the women and children were permitted to 
gather as witnesses of their triumph, and j^erhaps at the close would be allowed 
to take part by torturing those of the white men who should be taken alive. 
Tiie withdrawal of the women and children was regarded as a favorable sign 
l)y the scouts. 

Soon after and as a last resort the Indians endeavored to hold apai-ley with 
Forsyth, by means of a white flag; but this device was too shallow and of too 
common adoption to entrap the frontiersman, the object simply being to ac- 
complish by stratagem and perfidy whattliey had failed in by superior numbers 
and open warfare. Everything now seemed to indicate that the Indians had 
had ejiough of the fight, and during the night of the third day it was plainly 
evident that they had about decided to withdraw from the contest. 

Forsyth now wrote the following despatch, and after nightfall confided it to 
two of his best men, Donovan and Plyley; and they, notwithstanding the dis- 
couraging result of the last attempt, set out to try and get through to Fort Wal- 
lace with it, which they successfully accomplished: 

Ox Delaware Ckeek, Republican Rh-ee, Sept. 19, 1868. 
To Colonel Bankhead, or Commanding Officer, Fort Wallace. 

I sent you two messengers on the night of the 17th instant, informing yoii of ni)' critical condi- 
tion. I tried to send two more last night, but they did not succeed in passing tlie Indian pickets, 
and returned. If the others liave not arrived, then hasten at once to my assistance. I ha\e eight 
badly wounded and ten slightly wounded men to take in, and every animal I had was k lied save 
seven whieli the Indians stampeded. Lieutenant Beecher is dead, and Acting Assistant Surgeon 
Movers probably cannot live the night out. lie was hit in the head Thursday, and has spoken but 
one rational word since. I am wounded in two places, in the right thigh and my loft leg broken 
below the knee. Tlie Cheyennes numbered 4.^)0 or more. Mr. Grover says they ncvei- fought so be- 
fore. They were splendidly armed with Spencer and Henry rifles. We killed at least thirty-flve of 
them and wounded many more, besides killing and wounding a quantity of their stock. They car- 
ried off most of their killed during the night, but three of their men fell into our liands. I .am on a 
little island and liave still plenty of ammunition left. We are living on mule and liorse meat, and 
are entirely out of rations. If it was not for so many wounded, I would come in and take the 
chances of whipping them if attacked. They are evidently sick of their bargain. 

I had two of the members of my company killed on the 17th, namely, William Wilson and 
George W. Calner. Yon had better start with not less than seventy-five men and bring all the 
■wagons and ambulances you can spare. Bring a si.\-pound howitzer with you. I can hold out 
here for 6lx days longer, if absolutely necessary, but please lose no time. 
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 
(Signed) George 'ijgrJ'ORSYTir, 

U. S. Army, Commanding Co. Scouts 

P. S. My surgeon having been mortally wounded, none of my wounded have had their wounds 
dressed yet, so please bring out a surgeon with you. 

A small pai-ty of warriors remained in the vicinity watching the movements 
of the scouts; the main body, however, had departed. 

The well men, relieved of the constant watching and fighting, were now able 
to give some attention to the wounded. Their injuries, which had grown very 
painful, were rudely dressed. Soup was made out of horse-flesh, and shelters 
were constructed protecting them from the heat, damp, and wind. On the 
sixth day the wounds of the men began to exhibit more decided and alarm- 
ing signs of neglect. Maggots infested them and the first traces of gangrene 



LIFE ON THE TLAINS. S7 

had set in. To multiply the discomforts of their situation, the entire party- 
was almost overpowered by the intolerable stench created by the decomposing 
bodies of the dead horses. Their supply was nearly exhausted. Under these 
trying circumstances Forsyth assembled his men. He told them " they knew 
their situation as well as he. There were those who were helpless, but aid 
must not be expected too soon. It might be difficult for the messengers to 
reach tbe foft, or there might be some delay by their losing their way. Those 
Aviio wislied to go should do so and leave the rest to take their chances." With 
one voice they resolved to stay, and, if all hope vanished, to die together. 

At last the supply of jerked horse meat Avas exhausted, and the chances of 
getting more were gone. By this time the carcasses of the animals were a 
mass of corruption. There was no alternative — strips of putrid flesh were cut 
and eaten. The effect of this offensive diet was naus(!ating in the extreme. 
An experiment was made, with a view to improving the unpalatable flesh, of 
using gunpowder as salt, but to no purpose. The men allayed only their ex- 
treme cravings of hunger, trusting that succor might reach them before all 
was over. 

On the morning of September 25, the sun rose upon Forsyth and his fom- 
ished party Avitli unusual splendor, and the bright colors of the morning horizon 
seemed like a rainbow of promise to their weary, longing spirits. Hope, 
grown faint with long waiting, gathered renewed strength from the brightness 
of nature. The solitary plain receding in all directions possessed a deeper 
interest than ever before, though it still showed no signs of life and presented 
the same monotonous expanse upon wdiich the heroic band had gazed for so 
many ti'ying days. Across the dim and indefinable distance whicli swej^t in 
all directions, the eye often wandered and wondered what might be tlie reve- 
lations of the next moment. Suddenly several dark figures appeared faintly on 
the horizon. The objects were moving. The question uppermost in the minds 
of all was. Are they savages or messengers of relief? As on such occasions 
of anxiety and suspense, time wore heavily, minutes seemed like hom's, yet 
each moment brought the sufferers nearer the realization whether this Avas 
their doom or their escape therefrom. Over an hour had elapsed since the ob- 
jects first came in sight, and yet the mystery remained unsolved. Slowly but 
surely they developed themselves, until finally they had approached sufficiently 
near for their chai'acter as friends or foes to be unmistakably established. To 
the joy of the weary watchers, the parties approaching pi'oved to be troops ; 
relief was at hand, the dangers and anxieties of the past few days were ended, 
and death either by starvation or torture at the hands of the savages no longer 
stared them in the face. The strong set up a shout such as men seldom utter. 
It was the unburdening of the heart of the weight of despair. The Avounded 
lifted their fevered forms and fixed their glaring eyes upon the now rapidly 
approaching succor, and in their delirium involuntarily but feebly reiterated 
the acclamations of their comrades. 

The troops arriving for their relief were a detachment from Fort Wallace 
under command of Colonel Carpenter of the regular cavalry, and had started 
from the fort promptly upon the arrival of Trudeau and Stillwell Avith intelli- 
gence of the condition and peril in which Forsyth and his party Avere. 

When Colonel Carpenter and his men reached the island they found its de- 
fenders in a most jiitiable condition, yet the survivors Avere determined to be 
plucky to the last. Forsyth himself, Avith rather indifferent success, affected to 
be reading an old novel that he had discovered in a saddlebag; but Colonel 



98 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

Carpenter said his voice was a little unsteady and his eyes soraewli.it dim 
when he held out his hand to Carpenter and hade him welcome to "Beecher's 
Island," a name tiiat has since heen given to the battle-ground. 

Daring the fight Forsyth counted tliirty-two dead Indians within rifle range 
of the island. Twelve Indian bodies were subsequently discovered in one pit, 
and five in another. The Indians themselves confessed to a loss of seventy-five 
killed in action, and when their proclivity for concealing or diminishing the 
number of their slain in l^attle is considered, we can readily believe that their 
actual loss in tliis fight must have been much greater than they would have u£ 
believe. 

Of the scouts. Lieutenant Reoclier, Surgeon Movers, and six of the men 
were either killed outright or died of their wounds ; eight more were disabled 
for life; of the remaining twelve who Avere wounded, neai'ly all recovered 
completely. During the fight innumerable interesting incidents occuri'ed, 
some laughable and some serious. On the first day of the conflict a number 
of young Indian boys from fifteen to eighteen years of age crawled up and shot 
about fifty arrows into the circle in which the scouts lay. Ono of these arrows 
struck one of the men, Frank Herrington, full in the forehead. Not being 
able to pull it out, one of his companions, lying in the same hole wnth him, cut 
off the arrow with his knife, leaving the iron arrowhead sticking in his frontal 
bone; in a moment a bullet struck him in the side of the head, glanced across 
iiis forehead, impinged upon the arrowhead, and the two fastened together fell 
to the ground — a queer but successful piece of amateur surgery. Herrington 
wrapped a cloth around his head, which bled profusely, and continued fighting 
{IS if nothing liad happened. 

Howard jNIorton, another of the scouts, ^vas struck in the lioad by a bullet, 
whicli finally lodged in the rear of one of his eyes, completely destroj'ing its 
sight forever; but Morton never faltered, but fought bi'avely until the savages 
finally withdrew. Hudson Farley, a young stripling of only eighteen, whose 
father was mortally wounded in the first day's fight, was shot through the 
slioulder, yet never mentioned the fact mitil dark, when the list of wounded was 
called for. McCall, the First Sergeant, Vilott, Clark, Farley the elder, and 
otlKU's who were wounded, continued to bear their full share of the fight, not- 
witJistanding tJieir great sufferings, until the Indians finally gave up and with- 
drew. These incidents, of which many similar ones might be told, onlj' go to 
show the remai'kable character of the men who composed Forsyth's jiarty. 

Considering this engagement in all its details and with all its attendant cir- 
camstances, remembering that Forsyth's party, including himself, numbered all 
told but fifty-one men, and that the Indians numbered aboutseventeen to one, this 
fight was one of the most remarkable and at the same time successful contests in 
whmh our forces on tlie Plains have ever been engaged; and the whole affair, 
from the moment the first shot was fired until the beleaguered party was finally 
relieved by Colonel Carpenter's command, was a wonderful exhibition of dar- 
ing courage, stubborn bravery, and heroic endurance, under circumstances of 
greatest j)eril and exposure. In all probability there will never occur, in our 
future liostilities with the savage tribes of the West, a struggle the equal of 
that in which were engaged the heroic men who defended so bi'avely " Beeclier's 
Island." Forsyth, tlie gallant leader, after a long period of snflering and 
leading the life of an invalid for nearly two years, finally recovered from the 
effects of his severe wounds, and is now, I am happy to say, as good as new, 
contentedly awaiting the next war to give him renewed excitement. 



XL 



THE winter of 1807-08 found me comfortably quarterod at Fort Loavon- 
Avorth, Kansas, on the banks of the Missouri. A considerable portion 
of my regiment had been ordered to locate at that post in the fall, and make 
that tlieir winter quarters. General Sheridan, then commanding that military 
department, had also established liis headquarters there, so that the post be- 
came more than ever the favorite military station in tlie West. I had not been 
jn duty with my regiment since my rapid ride from Fort Wallace to Fort Ilar- 
Ker in Julj', nor was I destined to serve with it in the field for some time to 
come. This, at the time, seemed a great deprivation to me, but subsequent 
events proved most conclusively that it Avas all for the best, and the result 
could not have been to me more satisfoctory than it was, sliowing as it did that 
the best laid plans of mice and men, etc. But I am anticipating, 

Tliose who have read the tabulated list of depredations committed by the 
Indians, as given in the article describing General Forsyth's desperate fight on 
Arickaree Fork, may have noticed the name of William Comstock in the col- 
umn of killed. Comstock w^as tlie favorite and best known scout on the cen- 
tral plains. Frequent reference has been made to him in preceding numbers, 
particularly in the descrijition of the attack of the Indians on the detacliment 
cmnmanded by Robbins and Cook. Strange as it may seem, when his thor-. 
ough knowledge of the Indian character is considered, he fell a victim to tlieir 
treachery and barbarity. The Indians were encamped with tlieir village not 
far from Big Spring station, in western Kansas, and were professedly at peace. 
Still, no one familiar with the deceit and bad fiiith invariably practised by the 
Indians when free to follow the bent of their inclinations, ought to have 
thought of trusting themselves in their power. Yet Comstock, Avith all his 
previous knowledge and experience, did that which he Avould certainly have 
disapproved in others. He left the camp of the troops, which Avas but a fcAV 
miles from the Indian village, and Avith but a single companion rode to the 
latter, and spent several liours in friendly conversation Avith the chiefs. Nothing 
occurred during their visit to excite susi)icion. The Indians assumed a most 
peaceable bearing toAvard them, and Avere profuse in their demonstrations of 
friendship. When the time came for Comstock and his comrade to take their 
departure, they Avere urged by the Indians to remain and spend the night in 
the village. 

The invitation w^as declined, and after the usual salutations the two Avhite 
men mounted their horses and set out to return to their camp. Comstock al- 
Avays carried in his belt a beautiful Avhite-handled revolver, and wore it on this 
occasion. This had often attracted the covetous eyes of the savages, and Avhile 
in the village propositions to barter for it had been made by more than one of 
tlie warriors. Comstock invariably refused all offers to exchange it, no mat- 
ter liow tempting. Months before, Avhen riding together at the head of the 
column, in pursuit of Indians, Comstock, who had observed that I carried a 
revolver closely resembling his, remarked that I ought to have the pair, and 
tlien laughingly added that he would carry his until we found the Indians, and 
after giving them a sound Avhipping he Avould present me the revolver. Fre- 
quently during the campaign, when on the march and Avhile sitting around the 
evening camp fire, Comstock Avould refer to his promise concerning the revol- 



100 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

ver. After liuntinoj Indians all summer, but never finding them just when we 
desired them, Com stock was not unfrequently joked upon the conditions under 
whicli he was to part with his revolver, and fears were expressed tliat if he 
carried it until we caught and whipped the Indians, he might be forced to go 
armed for a long time. None of us imagined then that the revolver which was 
so often the subject of jest, and of which Comstock was so proud, would be 
the pretext for his massacre. 

Comstock and his companion rode out of the village in the direction of their 
own camp, totally unconscious of coming dangei*, and least of all from those 
Avhose guests thej- had just been. The}- had proceeded about a mile from the 
village when they observed about a dozen of the young warriors galloping after 
them. Still suspecting no unfriendly design, they continued their ride until 
joined by the j'oung warriors. The entire party then rode in company until, 
as was afterward apparent, the Indians succeeded in separating the tAvo white 
men, the one riding in front, the other, Comstock, folloAving in rear, each with 
Indians riding on either side of them. At a preconcerted signal a combined 
attack was made bj' the savages upon the two white men. Both the latter at- 
tempted to defend themselves, but the odds and the suddenness of the attack 
deprived them of all hope of saving their lives. Comstock was fatally wounded 
at the fii'st onslaught, and soon after was shot from his horse. His companion, 
being finely mounted, wisely intrusted his life to the speed of his horse, and 
soon outstripped his pursuers, and reached camp with but a few slight wounds. 
The Indians did not seem disposed to press him as closely as is their usual cus- 
tom, but seemed only anxious to secure Comstock. He, after falling to the 
ground severely wounded, was completely riddled by steel-pointed arrows, and 
his scalp taken. The principal trophy, however, in the opinion of the savages, 
was the beautifully finished revolver with its white ivory handle, and, as they 
afterward confessed when peace Avas ]jroclaimed with their tribe, it was to ob- 
t:iin this revolver that the party of j-oung warriors left the village and followed 
Comstock to his death. Thorouglily reliable in his reports, brave, modest, and 
persevering in character, Avilh a remarkaljle knowledge of the country and the 
savage tribes infesting it, he was the superior of all men who Avere scouts by 
profession with Avhom I have had any experience. 

While sitting in my quarters one day at Fort Leavenworth, late in tlie fall 
of 1867, a gentleman was announced whose name recalled a sad and harrowing 
sight. It proved to be the father of Lieutenant Kidder, whose massacre, witli 
that of his entire party of eleven men, was described in preceding pages. It 
will 1)6 remembered that the savages had hacked, mangled, and burned the 
bodies of Kidder and his men to such an extent that it was impossible to recog- 
nize the body of a single one of the party; even the clothing had been removed, 
80 tliat we could not distinguish the officer from his men, or the men from 
each other, by any fragment of their uniform or insignia of their grade. Mi\ 
Kitider, after introducing liimself, announced the object of his visit; it was to 
ascertain the spot Avhere the remains of his son lay buried, and, after procuring 
suitable military escort to proceed to the grave and disinter his son's remains 
preparatory to transferring them to a resting place in Dakota, of which terri- 
tory lie was at that time one of tlie judiciary. It was a painful task I had to 
perform when I communicated to the father the details of the killing of his 
.son and followers. And equally harassing to the feelings was it to have to 
inform him that there was no jiossible chance of his being able to recognize 
his son's remains. " Was there not the faintest mark or fragment of his uni- 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 101, 

form by -which he might be known?" inquired the anxious parent. "Not 
one," -was the rehictant reply. "And yet, since I now recall the appearance^^^- 
of the mangled and disfiguretl remains, there was a mere trifle which attracted 
my attention, but it could not have been your son who wore it." " What was 
it?" eagerly inquired the father. "It was simjily the collar-band of one of 
those ordinary check overshirts so commonly worn on tlie plains, the color 
being black and white; the remainder of the garment, as well as all otlier 
articles of dress, having been torn or burned from the body." Mr. Kidder then 
requested me to repeat the description of the collar and material of which it 
Avas made; happily I had some cloth of very similar appearance, and upon ex- 
hibiting this to Mr. Kidder, to show the kind I meant, he declared that the body 
I referred to could be no other than that of his murdered son. He went on to 
tell how his son had received his aj^pointment in the army but a few weeks 
before his lamentable death, he only having reported for dutjMvith his company 
a few daj's before being sent on the scout which terminated his life ; and how, 
before leaving his home to engage in the military service, his mother, with that 
thoughtful care and tenderness which only a mother can feel, prepared some 
articles of wearing apparel, among others a few sliirts made from the checked 
material already described. Mr. Kidder had been to Fort Sedgwick on the 
Platte, from which post his son had last departed, and there learned tliat on 
leaving the post he wore one of the checked shirts and put an extra one in his 
Siiddle pockets. Upon this trifling link of evidence Mr. Kidder jiroceeded four 
hundred miles west to Fort Wallace, and there being furnished with military 
escort visited the grave containing the bodies of the twelve massacred men. 
Upon disinterring the remains -a body was found as I had described it, bearing 
the simple checked collar-band; the fatlier recognized the remains of his son, 
and thus, as was stated at the close of a preceding chapter, was the evidence 
of a mother's love made the means by which her son's body was recognized 
and reclaimed, when all other had failed. 

The winter and spring of 1868 were uneventful, so far as Indian hostilities or 
the movements of troops were concerned. To be on the ground when its ser- 
vices could be made available in case the Indians became troublesome, the 
Seventh Cavalry left its winter quarters at Fort Leavenworth in April, and 
marched two hundred and ninety miles west to a point near the present site of 
Fort Haj's, where the troops established their summer rendezvous in camp. It 
not being my privilege to serve with the regiment at that time, I remained at 
Fort Leavenworth some time longer, and later in the summer repaired to my 
home in Micliigan, there amid the society of friends to enjoy the cool breezes 
of Erie until the time came which would require me to go west. \/ 

In the mean time, until I can relate some of the scenes which were enacted 
under ray own eye, and which were afterwards the subject of excited and angry 
comment, as well as of emphatic and authoritative approval, it will not be un- 
interesting to examine into some of the causes which led to the memorable 
M'inter campaign of 1868-69, including tlie battle of the Washita; and the 
reader may also be enabled to judge as to Avhat causes the people of the frontier 
are most indebted for the comparatively peaceable condition of the savage 
tribes of the plains during the past tliree j-ears. The question may also arise 
as to what influence the wild nomatUc tribes of the West are most likely to yield 
and become peaceably inclined toward their white neighbors, willing to forego 
their accustomed I'aids and attacks upon the frontier settlements, and content to 
no longer oppose the advance of civilization. Whether this desirable condition 



103 LIFE ON THE TLAIXS. 

of aflairs can be permanenLl_y and best securetl by the di.splay antl cxerci.sH of 
a strong but just military power, or by the extension of the olive-bran^'h on 
one hand and government annuities on the other, or by a hai)py combination 
of both, has long been one of tlie difficult problems whose solution has ballled 
the judgment of our legislators from the formation of the government to the 
in-esent time. My firm conviction, based upon an intimate and thorough analy- 
sis of the habits, traits of character, and natural instinct of the Indian, and 
strengtliened and supported by the almost unanimous opinion of all persisns 
who have made the Indian problem a study, and have studied it, not from a 
distance, Init in immediate contact witli all the facts bearing thereupon, is that 
tlie Indian cannot be elevated to that great level where he can be induced U» 
adopt any policy or mode of life varying from those towhicli he has ever been 
accustomed by any method «f teaching, argument, reasoning, or coaxing 
which is not preceded and followed closely in reserve b}' a superior physical 
force. In other words, the Indian is cajjable of recognizing no controlling 
influence but that of stern arbitrary power. To assume that he can be guided 
by api^eals to his ideas of moral right and wrong, independent of threatening or 
final compulsion, is to place him far above his more civilized brothers of the 
white race, who, in the most advanced stage of refinement and morality, still 
find it necessary to employ force, sometimes I'esort to war, to exact justice from 
a neighboring nation. And yet there are those who argue that the Indian* 
with all his lack of moral privileges, is so superior to the white race as to be 
capable of being controlled in his savage traits and customs, and induced to 
lead a proper life, simply by being jwlitely requested to do so. The campaign 
of 1868-69, under the direction of General Sheridan, who had entii-e command 
of the country infested by the five troublesome and warlike tribes, the Cheyonnes, 
Arapahoes, Kiowas, Comanclies, and Apaches, was fruitful in valuable results. 
At tlie same time the opponents of a war jjolicy raised the cry that the military 
were making war on friendly Indians ; one \\riter, an Indian agent, even as- 
serting that the troops had attacked and killed Indians half civilized, who had 
fought on the side of the Government during the war with the Confederate 
States. It was claimed by the adherents of the peace party that the Indians 
above named had been guilty of no depredations against the whites, and had 
done nothing deserving of the exercise of militaiy power. I believe it is a 
rule in evidence that a party coming into court is not expected to imi)each 
bis own witnesses. I pi'opose to show by the official statements of the oflicers 
of the Indian Department, including some of those who were loudest and 
most determined in their assertions of the innocence of the Indians after 
prompt punishment had been administered by the military, that the Indian 
tril)es whose names have been given were individually and collectively guilty 
of unprovoked and barbarous assaults on the settlers of the frontier; that tiiey 
committed these depredations at the very time they were receiving arms and 
other presents from tlie Government; and that no provocation had been offered 
either by the Government or the defenceless citizens of the border. In other 
words, by those advociating the Indian side of the dispute it will l>e clearly 
establislied that a solemn treaty had been reluctantly entered into between the 
Indians and the Government, by which the demands of the Indians wer;; com- 
plied with, and the conditions embraced in the treaty afterwards faithfully cai-- 
ried out on tiie part of the Government; and at the very time that tlie leading 
cliiefs and old men of the tribes were pledging themselves and their people 
that " they will Bot attack any persons at home or travelling, or disturb any 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 103 

IM-operty belongiuj^ to tlie people of the United States, or to persons friendly 
therewith," and tluit " they will never C!i2)ture or carry off from the settle- 
ments women or children, and they will never kill or scalp white men or attempt 
to do them harm," the j'oung men and warriors of these same tribes, em- 
braciniij the sons of the most prominent chiefs and signers of the treaty, were 
aotually engaged in devastating the settlements on tlie Kansas frontier, mur- 
dering men, women, and children, and driving oft" the stock. Now to the 
evidence. First glance at the following brief summary of the terms of the 
treaty which was ratified between the Government and the Cheyennes and 
Arapahoes on the 19th of August, 1868, and signed and agreed to by all the 
chiefs of these two tribes known or claiming to le prominent, and men of 
influence among tlieir own people. As the terms of the treaty are ahnost 
identical Avith those contained in most of the treaties made with otiier tribes, 
excepting the limits and location of reservations, it will be interesting for pur- 
poses of reference. 

First. Peace and friendship shall forever continue. 

Second. Whites or Indians committing wrongs to be punished according 
to law. 

Third. The following district of country, to wit, "commencing at the point 
where the Arkansas river crosses the 37th parallel of north latitude; thence 
west on said parallel — tlie said line being the southern boundary of tiie State 
of Kansas — to the Cimarron river (sometimes called the Red fork of the Ar- 
kansas river) ; thence down said Cimarron river, in the middle of the main 
channel thereof, to the Arkansas river; thence up the Arkansas I'iver in the 
middle of the main channel thereof to the place of beginning, is set apart for 
the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians." 

Fourth. The said Indians shall have the right to hunt on the unoccupied 
lands of the United States so long as game may be found thereon, and so long 
as peace subsists among the whites and Indians on the border of the hunting 
districts. 

Fifth. Is a provision for the selection and occupation of lands for those of 
said Indians who desire to commence farming on said reserve, and for expendi- 
tures for their benefit. 

Sixth. The United States further provides for an annual distribution of 
clothing for a term of years. 

The treaty with the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache tribes, ratified August 
25, 1868, embraced substantially the same provisions as those just quoted, ex- 
cepting that relating to their reservation, which was as follows: " Commenc- 
ing at a point where the Washita river crosses the OSth meridian west from 
Greenwich, thence up the Washita river, in the middle of the main channel 
thereof, to a point thirty miles west of Fort Cobb, as now established ; thence 
due west to the north fork of Red river, provided said line strikes said river 
east of the 100th meridian of Avest longitude ; if not, then only to said meridian 
line, and thence south on said meridian line to the said north fork of Red river;: 
thence down said north fork, in the middle of the main channel thereof, from 
the point where it may be first intersected by the lines above described, to the- 
main Red river; thence down said river, in the main channel thereof, to its^ 
intersection with the 98th meridian of longitude west from Greenwich; thence- 
nortli on said meridian line to the place of beginning." 

To those who jjrojjose to follow the movements of the troojis during the 
winter campaign of 1868-69, it will be well to bear in mind the limits of the 



104 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

last nanietl reservation, as the charge was made by the Indian agents that the 
luilitar^- had attacked the Indians when the latter were peacefully located with- 
in the limits of their reservation. 

To show that the Government through its civil agents was doing every- 
thing required of it to satisfy the Indians, and tiiat the agent of the Ch«!yenues 
and Arapahoes was firml}' of the opinion that every promise of tlie Government 
had not only been faithfully carried out, l)at that the Indians themselves had 
uo complaint to make, the following letter from the agent to the Superintend- 
ent of Indian Aflairs is submitted: 

FOHT Lakned, Kaksas, August 10, 18G8. 

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I yestcrdaj- made the whole issue of annuity goods, 
arms, and ammunition to tlie Clieyenne chiefs [the Arapahoes and Apaches liad received their por- 
tion in July. G. A. C] and people of tlieir nation; they were delighted at receiving tlie goods, 
particularly the arms and ammunition, and never helbre have I known them to be better satisfied 
and express themselves as being so well contented previous to the issue I made them a long 
speech, following your late instructions with reference to what I said to them. They have now 
left for their hunting-grounds, and / am perfectly satinjicd that there will be no trouble with them 
this season, and consequently with no Indians of my aijency. 

I have the honor to be, with much respect, your obedient servant, 

E. W. AVynkoop, United States Indian Agent. 

Hon. Thomas Murphy, Superintendent Indian Aflairs. 

The italics are mine, but I desire to invite attention to the confidence and 
strong reliance placed in these Indians by a man who was intimately associated 
Avith them, interested in their welfare, and supposed to be able to speak au- 
thoritatively as to their character and intentions. If they could deceive him, it 
is not surprising that other equally well-meaning persons further east should 
be equall}" misled. The above letter is dated August 10, 18G8. The following 
extract is from a letter written by the same party and to tlie Superintendent 
of Indian Affiirs, date 1 at same place on the 10th of September, 18G8, ex.ictly 
one month after his positive declaration that the Cheyennes '• were perfectly 
satisfied, and there will be no trouble with them this season." 

Here is the extract referred to: " Subsequently I received permission from 
thg Dej)artment to issue to them their arms .and ammunition, which I accord- 
ingly did. But a short time before the issue was made a war jwrty had shirted 
north from the Cheyenne village, on the war path against the Pawnees ; and the}', 
not knowing of the issue and smarting under their 5««j5J^ose(Z wrongs, committed 
the outrages on the Saline river which have led to the j^i'esent unfortunate 
aspect of aflairs. Tlie United States troops are now soutli of the Arkansas 
river in hot pursuit of the Cheyennes, the efl'ect of which I think will be to 
plunge other tribes into difiicuUy and finally culminate in a general Indian 
war." It will be observed that no justification is oflered for tlie guilty Indijins 
except that had they been aware of tlie wise and beneficent intention of the 
Government to issue them .i fresh supply of arms, tiiey miuht have del.ayed 
their murderous raid against the defenceless settlers until after the issue. 
Fears are also expressed that other tribes may be plunged into difficulty, but 
by the san:!e witness and others it is easily established that the other tribes re- 
ferred to were represented prominently in the war party which had devastated 
the settlements on the Saline. First I will submit an extract of a letter dated 
,Fort Larned, August 1, 1868, from Thomas Murphy, Superintendent of Indian 
Aftairs, to the Hon, N. G. Taylor, Commissioner of Indian Affiiir.s, Washington, 
D. C. : 

Sir: Ihftve the honor to inform you that I held a council to day with the Arapahoes and 
.Apache Indiaus, at which I explained to them why their arms and ammunition had been with- 



LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 105 

held; Miat the white settlers were now well armed and determined that no more raids should be 
made through tl:eir country by large bodies of Indians; and that while the whites were friendly 
and well disposed toward tlie Indians, yet if the Indians attempted another raid swell as they re- 
cently made on the Kaw reservation, I feared themselves and the whites would have a light, and 
that it would bring on war. 

Tlie head chief of the Arapahoes, Little Raven, replied " that no more trips would be made by 
his people into the settlemeuta: that their hearts were good toward the whites, and they wished 
to remain at peace with them." 1 told him I would now give them their arms and ammunition; 
that I hoped tliey would use them for the sole purpose of securing food for themselves and fami- 
lies, and that in no case would I ever hear of their using these arms against their white brethren. 
Little Raven and the other chiefs then promised that these arms should never be used against the 
whites, and Agent Wynkoop then dehvered to the Arapahoes one hundred pistols, eighty Lancas- 
ter rifles, twelve kegs of powder, one and one-half kegs of lead, and tifteen thousand caps; and to 
the Apaches he gave forty pistols, twenty Lancaster rifles, three kegs of powder, one-half keg of 
lead, and live thousand caps, for which they seemed much pleased. ... I would have re- 
mained here to see the Cheyennes did I deem it important to do so. From what I can learn there 
will be no trouble whatever with them. They will come here, get their ammunition and leave im- 
mediately to hunt buflalo. They are well and peacefully disposed toward the whites, and, unless 
some unlooked-for event should transpire to change their present feelings, they will keep their 
ti-eaty pledges. 

This certainly reads well, and at "Washington or further east would be re- 
garded as a favorable indication of the desire for peace on the part of the In- 
dians. The reader is asked to remember that the foregoing letters and extracts 
are from professed friends of the Indian and advocates of what is known as the 
peace policy. Tiie letter of Superintendent Murphy was written the day of 
council, August 1. Mark his words of advice to Little Raven as to how the arms 
were to be used, and note Little Raven's reply containing his strong promises of 
maintaining friendly relations with the whites. Yet the second night following 
fehe issue of arms, a combined war party of Cheyennes and Arapahoes, numbering 
over two hundred warriors, almost the exact number of pistols issued at the 
council, left the Indian village to inaugurate a bloodj' raid in the Kansas settle- 
ments ; and among tlie Arapahoes was the son of Little Raven. By reading the 
speech made by this chief in the council referred to by Mr. Murphy, a marked re- 
semblance will be detected to the stereotyped responses delivered by Indian chiefs 
visiting the authorities at Washington, or wlien imposing upon the credulous 
and kind-hearted people who assemble at Cooper Institute periodically to lis- 
ten to these untutored orators of the phiins. Tlie statements and promises ut- 
tered in the one instance are fully as reliable as those listened to so breath- 
lessly in the others. Regarding the raid made bj' the Cheyennes and Arapa- 
hoes, it will be considered sufficient perhaps when I base my statements upon 
tlie following "Report of an interview between Colonel E. W. "Wynkoop, 
United States Indian Agent, and Little Rock, a Cheyenne chief, held at Fort 
Earned, Kansas, August 19, 1868, in the presence of Lieutenant S. M. Robbins, 
Seventli United States Cavalry, John S. Smith, United States interpreter, and 
James Morrison, scout for Indian agency." 

Question by Colonel Wynkoop: "Six nights ago I spoke to you in re- 
grard to depredations committed on the Saline. I told you to go and find out 
by Avhom these depredations were committed and to bring me straight news. 
What news do you bring? " 

Little Rock: "I took your advice and went there. I am now here to tell 
you all I know. Tliis war party of Cheyennes which left the camp of these 
tribes above the forks of Walnut creek about the 2d or 3d of August, went out 
against the Pawnees, crossed the Smoky Hill about Fort Hays, and thence pro- 
ceeded to the Saline, where there were ten lodges of Sioux in the Cheyenne 
camp when this war party left, and about twenty men of them and four Ara- 



106 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

l>ulioes accompanied the party. The Cheyennes numbered abmil two hun- 
dred; nearly nil the 3-oung men in the village went; LiUlc Haven'' s son was 
one of the four Arapahocs. When the party reached the Saline they turned 
(hnvn the stream, with the exceptii)n of twenty, who, being fearful of de- 
])redations being committed against the whites b}' the part}' going in the 
direction of the settlements, kept on north toward the Pawnees. The main 
party continued down the Saline until they came in sight of tlie settlement; 
they tlien camped there. A Cheyenne named Oh-e-ah-mo-he-a, a brother 
of White Antelope, who was killed at Sand Creek, and another named lied 
Nose, proceeded to the first house; they afterwards returned to the csamp 
and with them a woman captive. The main party was sur])rised at this ac- 
tion, and forcibly took possession of her, and returned her to her house. The 
two Indians had outraged the woman before they brought her to the camp. 
After the outrage had been committed, the jxirties left the Saline and went 
north toward the settlement of tlie south fork of the Solomon, where they were 
kindly received and fed by the tchite jjcople. They left the settlements on the 
south fork and proceeded toward the settlements on the north fork. When 
ill siglii of these settlements, they came upon a body of armed settlers, who 
fired upon them ; they avoided the party, went around them, and approached 
a house some distance ofi'. In the vicinity of the house they came upon a 
white man alone upon the prairie. Big Head's son * rode at him and knocked 
him doAvn with a club. The Indian who had committed the outrage upon the 
white woman, known as White Antelope's brother, then fired upon the white 
man without efiect, while the third Indian rode up and killed him. Soon after 
thev killed a white man, and, close by, a woman — all in the same settlement. 
At the time these jieople were killed, the party was divided in feeling, the ma- 
jority being ojjposed to any outrages being committed; but finding it useless 
to contend against these outrages being committed without bringing on a strife 
among themselves, they gave way and all went in together. They then went 
to another house in the same settlement, and there killed two men and took 
two little girls prisoners; this on the same day. After committing this las* 
outrage the jiarty turned south toward the Saline, where they came upon a 
body of mounted troops; the troops immediately charged the Indiana, and 
the pursuit was continued a long time. The Indians having the two chil- 
dren, their horses becoming fatigued, drop2)ed the children without hurting 
them. Soon after the children were droi)ped the pursuit ceased ; but the In- 
dians continued on up the Saline. A portion of the Indians afterward re- 
turned to look for the children, but they were unable to find them. Afier they 
had jiroceeded some distance up the Saline, the party divided, the majority 
going north toward the settlements on the Solomon, but thirty of them started 
toward their village, supposed to be some distance northwest of Fort Larned. 
Another small party returned to Black Kettle^s village, frouKwhich party I got 
this information.! I am fearful that before this time the party that started 
north had committed a great many dejiredations " 

Question by Colonel Wynkoop: " Do you know the names of the ])viucipal 
men of this party that committed the depredations, besides '\Miite Antelope's 
brother?" 

• Atterward capturetl by my command and killed in a difficulty with the giianl at Fort Hays, 
Kansas, in the summer of 18(i9. 

t Little liock was a chief of Black Kettle's band of Cheyennes, and second in rank to Black 
Kettle. 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 107 

Answer by Liltle Ilock: " There were Medicine Arrow's oldest son, named 
Tall \\'o]f; lied Nose, wlio was one of the men who outraged the woman, 
Big Head's son named Porcupine Bear; "and l^and Hill's broLlier, known as the 
Boar that Goes AliBad." 

Question by Colonel Wynkoop: "You t(jld me your nation wants peace; 
will you, in accordance with your treaty stipulations, deliver up the men whom 
yi>u iiave named as being the leaders of the party who committed the outrages 
named? " 

Answer by Little Rock: "I think that the only men wlio ought to sufi'er 
and be responsible for these outrages are "Wliite Antelojui's brother and lied 
Nose, the men who ravished the woman; and when I return to the Clicyenne 
cam]) and assemble the chiefs and head men, I think tliose two men will be 
delivered up to you." 

Question by Colonel Wynkoop : "I consider the whole party guilty; l)ut 
it being impossible to punisli all of them, I hold the principal men, Avhom you 
mentioned, responsible for all. They had no right to be led and governed by 
two men. If no depredations had been committed after the outr;ige on the 
woman, tlie two men whom you have mentioned alone would have been 
guilty." 

Answer by Little Rock: " After your explanation I think your demand for 
the men is right. I am willing to deliver them ui), and will go back to the 
tribe and use my best endeavors to have them surrendered. I am but one 
man, and cannot ansAver for the entire nation." 

Other questions and answers of similar imi)ort followed. 

The terms of the interview between Colonel Wynkoop and Little Rock 
were carefully noted down and transmitted regularly to his next superior offi- 
cer. Superintendent Murphy, who but a few days previous, and within the 
same month, had officially reported to the Indian Commissioner at Washing- 
ton that peace and good will reigned undisturbed between the Indians under 
his charge and the whites. Even he, with his strong leaning toward the adop- 
tion of morbid measures of a peaceful character, and his disinclination to be- 
lieve the Indians could meditate evil toward their white neighbors, was forced, 
as his next letter shows, to alter his views. 

Office Superintendent Indian Affairs, Atohison, Kansas, August 23, 1S68. 

Sir : I have the honor herewith to transmit a letter of the 19th inst. from Agent Wynkoop, en- 
closing report of a talis Avhich he had wiUi Little Kock, a Cheyenne cliief, whom he had sent to as- 
certain the facts relative to the recent troubles on the Solomon and Saline rivers, in this State. 
Tlie agent's letter and report are full, and explain themselves. I fully concur in the views ex- 
pressed by the agent that the innocent Indians, who are trying to keep, in good faith, their treaty 
pledges, be protected in the manner indicated by him, while I earnestly recommend that the In- 
dians who have committed these gross outrages be turned over to the military, and tliat they be se- 
verely imnished. AVhen I reflect that at the very time these Indians were making such loud pro- 
fessions of friendship at Lamed, receiving their annuities, etc., they were then contemplating and 
planning this campaign, I can no longer have confidence in what they say or promise. War is 
surely upon us, and in view of the importance of the case, I earne^stly recommend that Agent 
Wynkoop be fui-nished promptly with the views of the Department, and that full instructions be 
given him for his future action. 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 
(Signed) Thomas Murphy, Superintendent Indian Affairs. 

Hon. C. E Mix, Acting Commissioner of Indian Affaii's, >Vashiugton, D. C. 

Wliat w^ere the recommendations of Agent Wynkoop referred to in Mr. 
Murphy's letter? They were as follows : "Let me take those Indians whom 
I know to be guiltless and desirous of remaining at peace, and locate them 



108 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

with their lodges and families at some good place that I may select in the vicinity 
of this post (Larned) ; and let those Indians be entirely subsisted by the Gov- 
ernment until this trouble is over, and be kept within certain bounds; and let 
me be furnished with a small battalion of United States troops, for the pur^jose 
of protecting them from their own peoi)le, and from being forced by them into 
war; let those who refuse to respond to my call and come within tlie bounds 
prescribed, be considered at war, and let them be properly punished. By this 
means, if war takes place — which I consider inevitable — we can be able to dis- 
criminate between those who deserve punishment and those who do not; other- 
wise it will be a matter of impossibility." 

This i)roposition seems, from its wording, to be not only a feasible one, but 
based on principles of justice to all concerned, and no dcnibt would be 
so interpreted liy the theorizers on the Indian question who study its merits 
from afar. Before acting upon Colonel Wynkoop's plan, it was in the regular 
oi'der referred to General Sherman, at th.it time commanding the Military Di- 
vision (jf the Missouri, in which the Indians referred to were located. His in- 
dorsement in reply briefly disposed of the proposition by exposing its absurd- 
ity: 

IlEADQUAKTEUS MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MiSSOUKI, ST. LOUlS, MISSOURI, ^ 

September 19, 1S68. ) 
I now regard the Chcycnnes and Arapahoes at war, aud that it will be impossible for our 
troops to discriminate between the well-aisposed and the warlike parts of these bauds, xmless an 
absolnte separation be made. 1 prefer that the agents collect all of the former and conduct tlicm 
to their reservation withm the Indian territory south of Kansas, there to be provided for under 
their supervision, say about old Fort Cobb. I caunot consent to their being collected aud held 
near Fort Larned. So long as Agent Wynkoop remains at Fort I.arned the vagabond part of the 
Indians will cluster about him for support, aud to beg of the military. The vital part of these 
tribes ai'e committiug murders and robberies from Kansas to Colorado, aud it is an excess of gen- 
ei-09ity on our part to be feeding aud supplying the old, young, and feeble, while their young men 
are at war. 

I do not pretend to say what should be done with these, but it will simplify our game of war, 
already complicated enough, by removing them well away from our field of operations. 
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant, 
(Signed) W. T. Siierjian, Lieutenaut-General, commanding. 

Ag.-iin, on the 26th of the same month, General Sherman, in a letter to Gen- 
ei'al S.;hofleld, then Secretary of "War, writes: "The annuity goods for these 
Indians, Kiowas and Comanches, should be sent to Fort Cobb, and the Indian 
agent for these Indians should go there at once. And if the Seci-etaiy of the 
Interior has any contingent fund out of which he could pi-ovide food, or if ho 
could use a part of the regular ajji^ropriation for food instead of clothing, it 
may keep these Indians from joining the hostile Clieyennes and Arapahoes. 
The latter should receive nothing, and now thnt they are at war, I propose to 
give them enough of it to satisfy them to their hearts' content, and General 
Siieridan will not relax his eftorts till the winter will put them at our mercy, 
lie repcjrts that he can already account for about seventy dead Indians, and his 
forces are right in among tliese liostile Indians on the Upper Republican, and 
on the he.ul of tlie Canadian south of Fort Dodge." 

Still another letter from General Sherman to the Secretary of War argues 
the case as follows : " All the Cheyennes and Arapahoes are now at war. Ad- 
mitting tliat some of them have not done acts of murder, rape, etc., still they 
hive not restrained tiiose who have, nor have they on dcnnand given up the 
crimin:ds as tliey agreed to do. The treaty made at Medicine Lodge is, there- 
fore, already broken by them, and tlie War Deparlmcnt siionld ask tlie conciu'- 
reuce of the Indian Department, or invoke the superior orders of the President 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 109 

against any goods whatever, even clothing, going to any part of the tribes 
named, until this matter is settled. As military commander I have the right, 
unless restrained bj' superior orders, to prevent the issue of any goods wliat- 
ever to Indians outside of these reservations ; and if tlie agency for the Chey- 
ennes and Arapahoes be established at or near old Fort Cobb, the agent should 
if possible be able to provide for and feed such as may go there of their own 
volition, or who may be driven there by our military movements. ... I 
have despatched General Ilazeu to the frontier, with a limited amount of money 
wherewith to aid the said agents to provide for the peaceful parts of those 
tribes tliis winter, while en route to and after their arrival at their new homes. 
No better time could be possibly chosen than the present for destroying or hu- 
miliating those bands tliat have so outrageously violated their treaties and be- 
gun a devastating war without one particle of provocation ; and after a reason- 
able time given for the innocent to withdraw, I Avill solicit an order from tlie 
President declaring all Indians who remain outside of their lawful reservations 
to be outlaws, and commanding all people, soldiers and citizens, to proceed 
against them as such. We have never heretofore been in a condition to 
adopt this course, because until now we could not clearly point out to these 
Indians where they may rightfnlly go to escape the consequences of the hostile 
acts of their fellows. The right to hunt buffaloes, secured by the treaties, 
could also be regulated so as to require all parties desiring to hunt to procure 
from the agent a permit, which permit should be indorsed by the commanding 
officer of the nearest military post; but I think, the treaty having been clearly 
violated by the Indians themselves, this hunting right is entirely lost to them, 
if we so declare it." 

The foregoing extracts from letters and official correspondence Avhich 
passed between high dignitaries of the Government, who were supposed not 
only to be thoroughly conversant with Indian affairs, but to represent the civil 
and military phase of the question, will, when read in connection with the 
statements of the superintendent and agent of the Indians, and that of the chief. 
Little Rock, give the reader some idea of the origin and character of the diffi- 
culties between the whites and Indians in the summer and fall of 1868. The 
tabulated list of depredations by Indians, accompanying the chapter descrip- 
tive of General Forsyth's campaign, will give more extended information in a 
condensed form. 

AVhile Forsyth was moving his detachment of scouts through the valleys of 
the Republican, in the northwestern portion of Kansas, General Sheridan had 
also arranged to have a well-equipped force operating south of the Arkansas 
river, and in this way to cause the two favorite haunts of the^ Indians to be 
overrun simultaneousl}-, and thus prevent them when driven from one haunt 
from fleeing in safety and unmolested to another. The expedition intended to 
operate south of the Arkansas was composed of the principal jiortion of the 
Seventh Cavalry and a few companies of the Third Regular Infantry, tlie entire 
force under command of Brigadier- General Alfred Sully, an officer of long ex- 
perience among the Indians, and one who had in times gone by achieved no 
little distinction as an Indian fighter, and at a later date became a partial ad- 
vocate of the adoption of the peace 2X)licy. General Sully's expedition, after 
being thoroughly equipped and supplied, under his personal supervision, with 
everything needful in a campaign such as was about to be undertaken, crossed 
the Arkansas river about the 1st of September, at Fort Dodge, and marching 
a little west of south struck the Cimarron river, where they first encountered 



110 LIFE OX THE TLAIXS. 

Indians. From the Cimarron the troops moved in a southeasterly direction, 
one day's march to Bearer creek, tiie savages opposing and figliting thorn 
during the entire day. That night the Indians came close enougli to fire into 
the camp, an unusual j^roceeding in Indian warfare, as they rarely molest 
troops during the hours of night. The next day General Sully dir> cted his 
marcii down the valley of the Beaver; but just as his troops wei'e breaking 
C'lnip, the long wagon train having already "jiulled out," and the rear guard 
of the troops having barely got into their saddles, a party of between two and 
three hundred warriors, who had evidentlj^ in some inexplicable manner con- 
trived to conceal their approacth until the proper moment, dashed into the de- 
serted camj) within a few yards of the rear of the troops, and succeeded in cut- 
ting off a few led horses and two of the cavalrymen who, as is so often the 
case, had lingered a moment behind the column. General Sully and staff 
were at that moment near the head of the column, a mile or more from camp. 
The General, as was his custom on the march, being comfortably stowed awaj 
in his ambulance, of course it was impossible that he or his staff, from their 
great distance from the scene of actual attack, could give the necess.ary oi'ders 
in the case. 

Fortunatelj', the acting adjutant of the cavalry, Brevet Ca2)tain A. E. 
Smith, Avas riding at the rear of the column and witnessed the attnck of the 
Indians. Captain Hamilton of the cavalry Avas also present in command of 
the rear guard. Wheeling his guard to the right about, he at once prepared 
to charge tlie Indians and to attemijt the rescue of the two troopers Avho were 
being carried off as prisoners before liis vei'y eyes. At the same time Captain 
Smith, as representative of the commandingotricer of the cavalry, promptly took 
the responsibility of directing a squadron of cavalry to wheel out of column and 
advance in support of Captain Hamilton's guard. With this hastily formed 
detachment, the Indians, still within pistol range, but moving off with their 
prisoners, were gallantly charged and so closely pressed that thoy Avere forced 
to relinquish i^ossession of one of their pi'isoners, but not before shooting him 
through the body and leaving him on the ground, as they supposed, mortally 
wouniled. The troops continued to charge the retreating Indians, upon avIiohi 
they AV(!re gaining, determined if possible to effect the rescue of their remaining 
comrade. They were advancing doAvn one slope Avhile the Indian? just across 
a ravine AA'ere endea\'oringto escape Avith their prisoner up the opposite ascent, 
when a peremptory order reached the officers commanding the pursuing force to 
withdraAV their men and reform the column at once. Delaying only long enough 
for an aml>ulance to aiTive from the train in Avhich to transport their Avounded 
comrade, the order Avas obeyed. Upon rejoining the column the two oflicers 
named Avere summonfed before the officer commanding their regiment, and, 
after a second-hand reprimand, were ordei'ed in arrest and their sabres taken 
from them, for leaving the column Avithout orders — the attempted and half 
successful, rescue of their comrades and the repulse of the Indians to the.eon- 
trary notwithstanding. Fortunately Aviser and better-naturcd counsels pre- 
vailed in a few hoiu's, and their regimental commander Avas authorized to re- 
lease these two officers from their brief durance, their sabres Avere restored to 
them, and they became, as they deserved, the recipients of numerous compli- 
mentary expressions from their bi'other officers. The terrible fate awaiting 
the unfortunate trooper carried off by the Indians spread a deep gloom thi'ough- 
out the command. All Avere too familiar Avith the horrid customs of the sav- 
ages to hope for a moment that the captive Avould be reserved for aught but a 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. Ill 

slow liiige ing flecath, from torture the most horrible and painful wliich savage, 
bloodthirsty minds could suggest. Such was in truth his sad fate, as we learned 
afterwards when peace (?) was established with the tribes then engaged in 
war. Never sliall I forget the consummate coolness and particularit}' of detail 
with which some of the Indians engaged in tlie affair related to myself and 
party the exact process by wliich the captured trooper was tortured to deatli; 
how he was tied to a stake, strips of flesh cut from his body, arms, and legs, 
burning brands thrust into the bleeding wounds, the nose, lips, and ears cut oft", 
and finally, when from loss of blood, excessive pain, and anguish, the poor, 
bleeding, almost senseless mortal fell to the ground exhausted, the younger 
Indians were permitted to rush in and despatch him witli tlieir knives. 

The expedition proceeded on down tlie valley of Beaver creek, the Indians 
contesting every step of the way. In the afternoon, about three o'clock, the 
troops arrived at a ridge of sand-hills, a few miles southeast of tlie present site 
of '• Camp Supply," where quite a determined engagement took place with the 
savages, the three tribes, Clieyennes, Arapahoes and Kiowas, being the assail- 
ants. The Indians seemed to have reserved their strongest efiurts until the 
troops and train had advanced well into the sand-hills, Avhen a most obstinate 
and well-conducted resistance was offered to the further advance of the troops. 
It was evident to many of the officers, and no doubt to the men, that the troo^js 
were probably nearing the location of the Indian villages, and that this last 
display of opposition to their farther advance was to save the villages. The 
character of the country immediately about the troops was not fiivorable to the 
operations of cavalry; the surface of the rolling plain was cut up by irregular 
and closely located sand-hills, too steep and sandy to allow cavalry to move 
with freedom, yet capable of being easily cleared of savages by troops fighting 
on foot. The Indians took post on the hill-tops and began a hartissing fire 
on the troops and train. Had the infantry been unloaded from the wagons 
promptlj% instead of adding to the great weight, sinking the wheels sometimes 
almost in to the axles, and had tlicy, with the assistance of a few of the dis- 
mounted cavalry, been deployed on both sides of the train, the latter could 
liave been safely conducted through Avhat was then decided to be impassable 
sand-hills, but which were a short time afterward proved to be perfectly prac- 
ticable. And once bej-ond the range of sand-hills but a short distance, the 
villages of the attacking warriors would have been found exjiosed to an easy 
and important capture, proliably terminating the campaign by compelling a sat- 
isfactory peace. Capta.in Yates, witli his single troop of cavalry, Avas ordered 
forward to drive tlie Indians away. This was a proceeding wliich did not seem 
to meet with favor from the savages. Captain Yates could drive them wherever 
he encountered them, but it was only to cause the redskins to appear in in- 
creased numbers at some other threatened point. After contending in this 
non-efi'ectire manner fur a coajjle of hours, the impression arose in the minds 
of some that the train could not be conducted through the sand-hills in the face 
of the strong opposition off'ei'ed by the Indians. The order was issued to turn 
about and withdraw. This order was executed, and the troop and train, fol- 
lowed by the exultant Indians, retired a few miles to the Beaver, and encamped 
for the night on the ground now known as " Camp Supply." 

Captain Yates had caused to be brought off" the field, when his troojD was 
ordered to retire, the body of one of his men who had been slain in the fight 
by the Indians. As the troops were to continue their backward movement 
next day, and it was impossible to transport the dead body further. Captain 



113 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

Y.ites onloi'cd preparations made forinten-ing it in camp that night; but know- 
ing tliat tlie Indians would thorough!)' searcli the deserted camp-ground ahnost 
before the troops should get out of sight, and would be quick witli their watch- 
ful eyes to detect a grave, and if successful in discovering it Avould unearth 
the body in order to obtain the scalp, directions were given to prepare the 
grave after nightfall, and the spot selected would have baffled the eye of any 
one but that of an Indian. Tlie grave was dug under the picket line to which 
the seventy or eighty horses of the troojjs would be tethered during the night, 
so that their constant tramping and jiaAving should completely cover up and 
obliterate all traces of the grave containing the body of the dead trooper. 
Tiie following morning even those who had performed the sad rites of burial 
to their fallen comrade could scarcely liave been able to indicate the exact 
location of the gra-^e. Yet when we returned to that point a few weeks after- 
ward it Avas discovered that the wilj' savages had found the grave, unearthed 
the body, and removed the scalp of tlieir victim, on the day following the 
interment. 

Early on the morning succeeding the fight in the sand-hills General Sully 
resumed his march toward Fort Dodge, the Indians following and harassing 
the movements of the troops until about two o'clock in the afternoon, Avhen, 
apparently satisfied Avith their success in forcing the expedition back, thus re- 
lieving their villages and themselves from the danger Avhich had threatened 
them, thej^ fired their parting shots and rode off in triumph. That night the 
troops camped on Bluff creek, from Avhich point General Sully proceeded to 
Fort Dodge, on the Arkansas, leaving the main portion of the command in 
camp on Bluff creek, Avhere Ave shall see them again. 



XII. 



IN a late cliapter I j)roraisetl to submit testimony from those higli in author- 
ity, now the highest, showing that among those who had given the sub- 
ject the most thoughtful attention, tlie opinion was unanimous in favor of the 
*• abolition of the civil Indian agents and licensed traders," and the transfer of 
the Indian Bureau back to the War Department, Avhere it originally belonged. 
The question as to which cabinet minister, the Secretary of War or the 
Secretary of the Interior, should retain control of the bureau regulating In- 
dian affairs, has long been and still is one of unending discussion, and is of far 
more importance to the country than tlie casual observer niight imagine. The 
army as a unit, and from motives of peace and justice, favors giving this con- 
trol to the Secretary of War. Opposed to this view is a large, powerful, and 
at times unscrupulous party, many of whose strongest adlierents are depend- 
ent upon the fraudulent practices and profits of which the Indian is the victim 
for tlie acquirement of dishonest wealth — practices and profits which only ex- 
ist so long as the Indian Bureau is under the supervision of the Interior Depart- 
ment. The reasons in fiivor of the War Department having the control of the 
government of the Indians exist at all times. But the struggle for this con^ 
trol seems to make its appearance, like an epidemic, at certain periods, and for 
a brief time will attract considerable comment and discussion both in and out 
of Congress, then disappear from public view. To a candid, impartial mind I 
believe the reasons why tlie Indians sliould be controlled by the DeiJartment 
of War, the department which must assume the reins of power when any real 
control is exercised, are convincing. It may be asked. Then why, if the rea- 
sons are so convincing, are not proper representations made to the authorities 
at Washington and the transfer secured? This inquiry seems natural enough. 
But the explanation is sufficiently simple. The army officers, partii^alarly 
those stationed on the frontier, hare but little opportunity, even had they the 
desire, to submit their views or recommendations to Congress as a body or to 
members indi\'idually. When impressed with ideas whose adoption is deemed 
essential to the Government, the usual and recognized mode of presenting 
them for consideration is by written communications forwarded tlirougli the 
intermediate and superior commanders until laid before the Secretaiy of War, 
by whom, if considered sufficiently important, they are submitted to the Pres- 
ident, and by liim to Congress. Having made this i-ecommendation and fur- 
nished the Dei^artment with his reasons therefor, an officer considers that he 
has discharged his duty in the premises, and the resjionsibility of the adoption 
or rejection of his ideas then rests with a superior jiower. Beyond the con- 
scientious discharge of his duty he has no interest, certainly none of a pe- 
cunUiry nature, to serve. In the periodical contests Avhich prevail between 
ihe military and civil aspirants for the control of the Indian Bureau, the miU- 
tary content themselves as above stated with a brief and unbiassed presenta- 
tion of their views, and having submitted their argument to the proper tribu- 
nal, no furtlier stejjs are taken to influence the decision. Not so with those 
advocating the claims of the civil agents and traders to public recognition. 
The preponderance of testimony and tlie best of the argument rest with the 
military. Bat there are many ways of illustrating that the battle is not always 



114 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

to the strong nor the race to the swift. The Wii3's of Congress are sometimes 
l)eculiar — not to eniplo}' a more exiiressive term. 

Under the Constitution of the United States there ai'e but two houses of 
Congress, the Senate and tlie House of Representatives, and most peojile re- 
siding within the jurisdiction of its laws suppose this to be tlie extent of the 
legislativ^e body ; but to those acquainted with tlie internal Avorking of that im- 
portant branch of the Government, tliere is still a third house of Congress, bet- 
ter known as the lobby. True, its existence is neither provided for nor recog- 
nized by law; yet it exists nevertheless, and so powerful, although somewhat 
hidden, is its influence upon the otlier branches of Congress, tliat almost any 
measure it is interested in becomes a law. It is somewhat remarkable that 
those measures which are plainly intended to promote the public interests are 
seldom agitated or advocated in the third house, while those measures of 
doubtful propriety or honesty usually secure the almost undivided support of 
the lobby. There are few prominent questions connected with the feeble pol- 
icy of the Government which can and do assemble so jjowerful and deter- 
mined a lobby as a j^roposed interference with the sj'stem of civilian superin- 
tendents, agents, and traders for the Indians. Let but some member of Con-' 
gress propose to inquire into the workings of the management of the Indians, 
or propose a transfer of the Ijureau to the War Department, and the leaders 
of tlie combination opposed raise a ciy Avliich is as eftective in rallying their 
supporters as was the signal of Roderick Dim. From almost every State and 
territory the retainers of the bureau flock to the national capital. AVliy this 
rallying of the clans? Is there any principle involved.^* With the few, yes; 
with the many, no. Then what is the mighty influence wliich brings together 
this hungry host? Why this determined opposition to any interference with 
the management of the Indians? I remember making tliis inquiiy years ago, 
and the answer then, which is equally applicable now, was : " There is too 
much money in the Indian question to allow it to pass into other hands." This 
I believe to be the true solution of our difticulties with the Indians at the pres- 
ent day. It s ems almost incredible that a policy which is claimed and rep- 
resented to be based on sympathy for the red man and a desire to secure to 
,liim his rights, is shaped in reality and manipulated behind tiie scenes with the 
distinct and sole objeirt of reajjing a rich harvest by plundering both the Gov- 
ernment and the Indians. To do away with the vast army of agents, ti-aders, 
and civilian emjiloyees which is a necessary appendage of the civilian 
Doliey, would be to deprive many members of Congress of a vast deal of 
patronage which they now enjo}^ There are few, if any, more comfortable 
or desirable places of disposing of a friend who has rendered valuable politi- 
cal service or electioneering aid, than to secure for him the appointment of 
Indian agent. Tlie salary of an agent is comparatively small. Men without 
means, liowever, eagerly accept the position ; and in a few years, at furthest, 
thej^ almost invariably retire in wealth. Who ever heard of a retired Indian 
agent or trader in limited circumstances? How do they realize fortunes upon 
eo small a salary? In tlie disposition of the annuities provided for the Indians 
by the Government, the agent is usually the distributing medium. Between 
himself and the Indian there is no system of accountability, no vouchers given 
•>r received, no books kept, in fact no record except the statement whicli the 
agent chooses to forward to his superintendent. 

The Indian has no means of knowing how much in value or how many 
presents of any particular kind the Government, tlio " Great Father " as ha 



TJFE ON THE PLAINS. 115 

terms it, has sent him. For knowledge on this point he must accept the state- 
uient of the agent. The goods sent by the Government are generally those 
which would most please an Indian's fancy. The Indian trader usually keeps 
!J:oodsof a similar character. The trader is most frequently a piirticular friend 
uf tlie agent, olten associated with liim in business, and in many instances holds 
nis i)ositi(»n of trader at the instance of the agent. They are always located 
aear each other. The trader is usually present at the distribution of aninii- 
uies. If the agent, instead of distributing to the Indians all of the goods in- 
tended for them by the Government, only distributes one half and retains the 
other half, who is to be the wiser? Not the Indian, defrauded though he may 
be, for he is ignorant of how much is coming to him. The Avord of the agent 
is his only guide. He may complain a little, express some disappointment at 
the limited amount of jiresents, and intimate that the "Great Father" has 
dealt out the annuities with a sparing hand; but the agent explains it by 
referring to some depredations which ho knows the tribe to have been guilty 
of in times past; or if he is not aware of any particnlar instance of guilt, he 
charges them generally Avith liaving committed such acts, knowing one can 
scarcelj' go amiss in accusing a tribe of occasionally slaying a wliite man, 
and ends up his charge by informing them that the "Great Father," learning 
of these little irregularities in their conduct and being pained greatly thei'eat, 
felt compelled to reduce their allowance of blankets, sugar, coflee, etc., Avhen 
at the same time the missing portion of said allowance is safely secured in the 
storehouse of the agent near by. Well, but how can he enrich himself in this 
manner? it may be asked. By simj^lj'', and unseen by the Indians, transferring 
che unissued portion of the annuities from ])is government storehouse to the 
trading establishment of his friend the trader. There the boxes are unimcked 
and their contents spread out for barter Avith the Indians. The latter, in grati- 
fying their wants, are forced to purchase from the trader at prices which are 
scores of times the value of the article ofl'ered. I have seen Indians dispose 
of buft'alo robes to traders, Avhich Avere Avorth from fifteen to tAventy dol- 
lars each, and get in return only ten to tAventy cups of brown sugar, the en- 
tire value of Avhich did not exceed tAvo or three dollars. This is one of the 
many Avays agents and traders haA^e of amassing sudden wealth. I have 
fenown the head chiefs of a tribe to rise in a council in the presence of other 
chiefs and of officers of the army, and accuse his agent, then pi'esent, of these 
or similar dishonest jiractices. Is it to be wondered at that the position of 
agent or trader among the Indians is greatly sought after by men deter- 
mined to become rich, but not jmrticular as to the manner of doing so? Or 
is it to be Avondered at that army officers, Avho are often made aware of the in- 
mstice done the Indian jet are poAverless to prevent it, and who trace many of 
#*ur difficulties Avith the Indians to these causes, should urge the abolishment 
of a system which has i)roven itself so fruitful in fraud and dishonest dealing 
toward those whose interests it should be their duty to protect? 

In oft'ering the testimony Avhich folloAvs, and Avhich to those at all interested 
in the subject of our dealings with the Indian must have no little weight, I 
nave given that of men whose interest in the matter could only spring from 
experience and a supposed thorough knoAV ledge of the Indian character, and 
.1 desire to do justice to him as Avell as to the Government, At the present 
Avriting a heavy cloud portending a general Indian war along our entire 
frontier, from the British possessions on the north to the Mexican border ou 
ibe soutii, hangs threateningly over us. Whether it will reallv result in Avar 



116 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

or in isolated acts of barbarity remains to be seen. But enong:h is known tc 
prove that the day has not yet ari'ived when the lawless saYa2;e of the j^lains 
is prepared or willing to abandon his favorite pastime of war and depredation 
upon the defenceless frontier, and instead to settle quietly down and study the 
arts and callings of a quiet and peaceful life. It is impossible for the Indian 
to comprehend the force of any law or regulation which is not backed up by 
a power sufficiently strong to compel its observance. This is not surprising, 
as a lai'ge proportion of their white lirethren are equally obtuse. Lieutenant- 
General Sheridan showed his thoi'ough appreciation of the Indian character, 
in an endoi'sement recently written by him upon a complaint relating to 
Indian depredations, forwarded from one of his subordinates to the War Dei)art- 
ment. General Sheridan writes, " We can never stop the wild Indians from 
murdering and stealing until we punish them. If a white man in this country 
commits a murder, we hang him ; if he steals a horse, we put him in the iwm- 
tentiary. If an Indian commits these crimes, we give him better fare and 
more blankets. I think I may say with reason, that under this policy the 
civilization of the wild red man will progress slowly." 

As might naturally be expected, a massacre like that at Fort Phil Kearny, 
in which ninety-one enlisted men and three officers were slain outright, and no 
one left to tell the tale, excited discussion and comment throughout the land, 
and raised inquiry as to who was responsible for this lamentable affiiir. The 
military laid the blame at the door of the Indian Bureau with its host of 
civil agents and traders, and accused the latter of supplying the Indians with 
tlie arms and ammunition which were afterward turned against the whites. 
The sujjporters of the Indian Bureau not only did not deny the accusation, 
but went so far as to claim that all our difficulties with the Indians could 
1)6 traced to the fact that the military commanders, particularly Generals Il'in- 
cock and Cooke, had forbidden the traders from furnishing the Indiana with 
arms and ammunition. This was the official statement of the Commissioner 
of Indian Atfairs in the spring of 1867. It was rather a queer complaint upon 
which to justify a war that, because the Government would not furnish the sav- 
ages with implements for murdering its subjects in approved luodern method, 
these same savages would therefore be reluctantly forced to murder and scalp 
such settlers and travellers as fell in their paths, in the old-fashioned toma- 
hawk, bow and arrow style. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs, in his re- 
port to the Secretary of the Interior in the spring of 1867, labored hard to find 
a justification for the Indians in their recent outbreak at Fort Phil Kearny. 
The withholding of arms and ammunition from the Indians seemed to be the 
l)rincipal grievance. As the views of the Commissioner find many supporters 
in quarters remote from the scene of Indian depredations, and among jjersons 
who still cling to the traditionary Indian, as wrought by the pen of Cooper, as 
'heir ideal red man, I quote the Commissioner's words: " An oi'der issued by 
oreneral Cooke at Omaha on the 31st of July last, in relation to arms and am- 
munition, has had a very bad effect. I am satisfied that such orders are not 
only unwise but really cruel, and therefore calculated to produce the very 
worst effect. Indians are men, and when hungi-y will like others resort to 
any means to obtain food ; and as the chase is their only means of subsistence, 
if you deprive them of the power of procuring it, you certainly pi'oduce great 
dissatisfaction. If it were true that ai'ms and ammunition could be accumu- 
lated by them to war against us, it would certainly be unwise to give it to 
tliem, but this is not the fact. No Indian will buy two guns. One he abso- 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 117 

lutely needs ; and as he lias no means of taking care of powder, he necessarily 
will take, when ofl'ered to him, but a very limited quantity. It is true that 
formerly they hunted with hows and arrows, killinj: buflalo, antelope, and 
deer with the same ; but to hunt successfully with bow and arrows requires 
horses, and as the valleys of that country are now more or less filled with 
white men prospecting for gold and silver, their means of subsisting their 
horses have passed away, and they now liave but few horses. I mention these 
facts so as to place before the country, as briefly as possible, the condition as 
well as the wants of the Indians." 

Unfortunately for the Commissioner, his premises were entirely wrong, and 
his conclusions necessarily so. It is a difilcult task to prove that men whose 
habits, instincts, and training incline them to deeds of murder, will be less apt 
to commit those deeds, provided we place in their hands every implement and 
facility for tlieir commission; yet such in efiect was the reasoning of the Com- 
missioner. Where or from whom he could have obtained the opinions lie ex- 
pressed, it is difficult to understand. He certainly derived no such ideas from 
a personal knowledge of the Indians themselves. How well his statements 
bear examination : " If it were true that arms and ammunition could be ac- 
cumulated by them to war against ns, it would certainly be worse to give it to 
them, but this is not the fact. No Indian Avill buy two guns." 

On the contrary, every person at all fiimiliar with the conduct of the In- 
dians knows that there is no plan or idea which they study more persistently 
than that of accumulating arms and ammunition, and in the successful execu- 
tion of this plan they have collected, and are to-day collecting arms and am- 
munition of the latest and most approved pattern. This supply of arms and am- 
munition is not obtained for purposes of hunting, for no matter how bountifully 
the Indian may be supplied with fire.arms, his favorite and most successful mode 
of killing the buffalo, his principal article of food, is with the bow and arrow. 
It is, at the same time, the most economical mode, as the arrows, after being 
lodged in the bodies of the buft'alo, may be recovered unimpaired, and be used 
repeatedly. " No Indian will buy two guns ! " If the honorable Commissioner 
had added the words, provided he can steal them, his statement would be heart- 
ily concurred in. From a knowledge of the facts, I venture the assertion that 
tliere is scarcely an Indian on the plains, no matter how fully armed and 
equipped, but will gladly barter almost anything he owns, of proper value, in 
exchange for good arms and ammunition. Even if his personal wants in this 
respect are satisfied, tlie Indian is too shrewd at driving a bargain to throw 
away any opportunity of possessing himself of arms or ammunition, as among 
his comrades he is aware that no other articles of trade command the prices 
that are paid for imj)lements of Avar. An Indian may not desire two guns for 
his own use, but he Avill buy or procure one gun and one or more revolvers 
as a part of his equipment for war, and there are few of the chiefs and war- 
riors of the plains who to-day are not the possessors of at least one breech-load- 
ing rifle or carbine, and from one to two revolvers. This can be vouched for 
by any officer who has been brought in contact with the hostile Indians of late 
years. As to the Indian not having proper means to t:ike care of his ammuni- 
tion, exjjerience has shown that Avhen he goes into action he carries a greater 
number of rounds of ammunition than do our soldiers, and in time of peace he 
exercises far better care of his supply than do our men. The army declared 
itself almost unanimously against the issue of arms to the Indians, while the 
traders, who were looking to the profits, and others of the Indian Bureau, 



118 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

proclaimed loudly in favor of the issue, unlimited and unrestrained. General 
Hancock, commanding at that time one of the most important and extensive 
of the Indian departments, issued orders to his subordinates throughout the 
Indian country, similar to the order referred to of General Cooke. The order 
simply required post commanders and other ofiicers to prevent the issue or 
sale of arms and ammunition to any Indians of the plains. As we were then 
engaged in hostilities with nearly all the tribes, it would have been simply as- 
sisting our enemies not to adopt this course. A spontaneous outcry came from 
the traders who were to be affected by this order — an outcry that did not 
cease until it resounded in Washington. General Hancock reported his action 
in the matter to his next superior officer, at that time Licutenant-General Sher- 
man. General Sherman at once sent the following letter to General Hancock, 
emphatically approving the course of the latter, and reiterating the order : 

Headquarters Military Division or the Missouri, ) 
St. Louis, Missouri, January 20. 18G7. j 

General : I have this moment received your letter of January 22, about the sale of arms and 
ammunition to Indians by traders and agents. We, the military, are held responsible for the 
peace of the frontier, and it is an absurdity to attempt it if Indian agents and traders can legalize 
and encourage so dangerous a trafllc. I regard the paper enclosed, addressed to Mr. D. A. But- 
terlield, and signed by Charles Bogy, W. R. Irwin, J. II. Leavenworth, and others, as an outrage 
upon our rights and supervision of the matter, and I bow authorize you to disregard that paper, 
and at once stop tlie practice, keeping the issues and sales of arms and ammunition under the rigid 
control and supervision of the commanding officers of the posts and districts near which the In- 
dians are. 

If tlie Indian agents may, without limit, supply the Indians with arms, I would not expose our 
troops and trains to them at all, but would withdraw our soldiers, wlio already have a herculean 
task on their hands. 

Tliis order is made for this immediate time, but I will, with all expedition, send these papersi 
with a copy of this, to General Grant, in the hope that he will Lay it before the President, who 
alone can control both War and Indian Departments, under whom, at present, this mixed control 
of the Indian question now rests in law and practice. 
Your obedient servant, 

W. T. Sherman, Lieutenant-General Commanding. 

General W. S. Hancock, commanding Department of the Missouri. 

This was before the peace policy had become supreme, or the appointment 
of agents from the Societj' of Friends had been discovered as a supposed pan- 
acea for all our Indian difficulties. 

General Sherman, as stated in his letter, forwarded all the papers relating 
to the arms question to the he.adquarters of the army. General Grant, thea 
in command of the army, forwarded them to the Secretary of War, accomim- 
nied by th« following letter, which clearly expresses the views he then held: 

Headquarters Armies of The United States, } 
W^ASIIINGTON, D. C, February 1, 1867. ) 

Sir : The enclosed p.apers, just received from General Shennan, are respectfully forwarded, 
and your special attention invited. They show the urgent necessity for an immediate transfer of 
the Indian Bureau to the War Department, and the abolition of tlie civil agents and Ircensed traders. 
If the present practice is to be continued, I do not see that any course is left open to us but to with- 
draw our troops to the settlements and call upon Congi-ess to provide means and troops to carry 
on formidable hostilities against the Indians, until all the Indians or all the whites on the great 
plains, and between the settlements on the Missoiu-i and the Pacific slope, are exterminated. The 
course General Sherman has pursued in this matter, in disregarding the permits of Mr. Bogy and 
others, is just right. I will instruct him to enforce his order until it is countermanded by the 
President or yourself. I would also respectfully ask that this matter be placed before the Presi- 
dent, and his disapproval of licensing the sale of ai-ms to Indians a.sked. We have treaties with 
all tribes of Indians from time to time. If the rule is to be followed that all tribes with which we 
have treaties, and pay annuities, can i)rocure such articles without stint or limit, it will not be long 
bclore the maitor becontes perfectly understood by the Indians, and they avail themselves of it to 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 119 

equip themselvea for war. Tliey will get the anus either by making ti'eatics themselves or through 
ti'ibes who have such treaties. 

I would respectfully recommend that copies of the euclosed communications be furnished to 
the Military Committee of each house of Congress. 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

IT. S. Grant, General. 
Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secrctai-y of War. 

In response to a request from General Grant to furnish the Department 
•with a statement of his views on the qui stion of a transfer of the Indian Bu- 
reau from the Interior to the War Department, General John Pope, wliose 
great experience among and knowledge of the Indians of the plains eminent- 
ly qualified him to judge of the real merits of the question, wrote an able letter, 
briefly stating the prominent reasons favoring the proposed change. As the 
question of the transfer of the Indian Bureau from the control of the Interior to 
that of the War De]3artment is constantly being brought up, and after tlie fail- 
ure of the present policy is most likely to be raised again, the arguments ad- 
vanced by General Pope, being those generally maintained by the army, and 
still having full force, are here given : 

Washington, D. C, January 25, 1867. 

General : In compliance with your suggestions, I have the honor to submit the following 
leading reasons why the Indian Bureau should be retransferred to the War Department. The 
views which I shall submit are by no means original, but are well-settled opinions of every officer 
of the army who has had experience on the subject, and are and have been entertained for yeara 
by nearly every citizen of the territories not directly or indirectly connected with the present sys- 
tem of Indian management. 

Under present circumstances there is a divided jurisdiction over Indian affairs. While the In- 
dians are officially at peace, according to treaties negotiated with them by the civil officers of the 
Indian Bureau, the military forces stationed in the Indian country have no jurisdiction over the 
Indians, and of consequence no certain knowledge of their feelings or purposes, and no power to 
take any action, either of a precautionary or aggressive character. The first that is known of In- 
dian hostilities is a sudden report that the Indians have commenced a war, and have devastated 
many miles of settlements or massacred parties of emigrants or travellers. By the time such in- 
formation reaches the mUitary commander, the Avorst has been accomplished, and the Indians 
have escaped from the scene of outrage. Nothing is left to the military except pursuit, and gener. 
ally unavailing pursuit. The Indian agents are careful never to locate their agencies at the mili- 
tary posts, for reasons very well understood. It is not in human nature that two sets of officials, 
responsible to different heads, and not in accord either in opinion or purpose, should act together 
bai-moniously ; and instead of combined, there is very certain to be conflicting action. The re- 
sults are what might be expected. It would be far better to devolve the whole management of In- 
dian affairs upon one or the other department, so as to secure at least consistent and uniform poli- 
cy. At war the Indians are under the control of the military, at peace under the control of the 
civil officers. Exactly what constitutes Indian hostilities is not agreed on ; and, besides this, as 
soon as the military forces, after a hard campaign, conducted with great hardship and at large ex- 
pense, have succeeded in forcing the Indians into such a position that punishment is possible, tlie 
Indian, seeing the result and the impossibility of avoiding it, immediately proclaims his wish to 
make peace. The Indian agent, anxious, for manifest reasons, to negotiate a treaty, at once inter- 
feres " to protect" (as he expresses it) the Indians from the troops, and arrests the further prose- 
cution of the military expedition just at the moment when results are to be obtained by it, and the 
Whole labor and cost of the campaign are lost. The Indian makes a treaty to avoid immediate 
danger by the troops, without the slightest purpose of keeping it, and the agent knows vei-y well 
that the Indian does not intend to observe it. While the army is fighting the Indians at one end of 
the line, Indian agents are making treaties and furnishing supplies at the other end, which sup- 
plies are at once used to keep up the conflict. With this divided jurisdiction and responsibility ift 
is impossible to avoid these unfortunate transactions. If the Indian department, as at present 
constituted, Avere given sole jurisdiction of the Indians, and the troops removed, it is certain that a. 
better condition of things would be obtained than now exists, since the whole responsibility of In- 
dian wars, and their results to unprotected citizens, would belong to the Indian Bureau alone,, 
without the power of shifting the responsibility of consequences upon others. The military officer 
is the representative of force, a logic which the Indian understands, and with which he does not 
invest the Indian agent. It is a fact which can be easily authenticateil, that the Indians, in mass. 
prefer to deal entirely with military commanders, and would unanimously vote for the transfer of 



120 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

the Indian department to the "Wur Department. In this they are niainly inflnenced by the knowl- 
edge that they can rely upon what the miUtiiry commander tells or promises them, as they see ha 
has power to fullil his promise. 

The first and great interest of the army officer is to preserve peace with the Indi.ins. His 
home during his life is to be at some military post m the Indian country, and aside from the obli- 
gations of duty, his own comfort and quiet, and the possibility of escaping arduous and harassing 
field service against Indian? at all seasons of the year, accompanied by ft-equent changes of station, 
wliich render it impossible for him to have his family with him, render a state of pe^cc with Indians 
the most desirable of all things to him. He tlierefore omits no pi'oper precautions, and does not 
fail to use all proper means, by just treatment, honest distribution of annuities, and fair deaUng, 
to secure quiet and friendly relations witli the Indian tribes in his neighborhood. His honest dis- 
tribution of the annuities appropriated to the Indians is further secured by his life commission in 
the army, and the odium which would blast his life and cliaracter by any dishonest act. If dis- 
missed from tlie service for such malfeasance, he would be publicly branded by his own profes- 
sion, and would be powerless to atnibute his removal from office to any but the ti-ue cause. The 
Indian agent, on the other hand, accepts his office for a limited time and for a specific pui-pose, 
and he finds it easy when he has secured his ends (the rapid acquisition of money) to account for 
his removal from office on political grounds or the personal enmity of some otlier official of his 
department superior in rank to himself. The eagerness to secure an appointment as Indian agent, 
on a small salary, manifested by many persons of superior ability, ought of itself to be a warning 
to Congress as to the objects sought by it. It is a common saying in the West that next to, if not 
indeed before, the consulship to Liverpool, an Indian agency is the most desirable oflice in the gift 
of the Government. Of course the more treaties an Indian agent can negotiate, the larger the ap- 
propriation of money and goods which passes through his hands, and the more valuable his office. 
An Indian war on evei-y other day, with treaty-making on intermediate days, would be therefore 
the condition of affairs most satisfactory to such Indian agents. I by no means say that all In- 
dian agents are dishonest. In truth I know some who are very sincere and honorable men, who 
try to administer their offices with fidelity to the Government; but tliat the mass ot'Indian agents 
on the frontier are true only to their personal and pecuniary interests, I am very sure no one 
familiar with the subject will dispute. I repeat, then, that a condition of peace with the Indians 
is above all tilings desirable to the military officer stationed in their country: something very like 
the reverse to tlie Indian agent. 

The transfer of the Indian Bureau to the War Department would at once eliminate from our 
Indian svstem the formidable anny of Indian superintendents, agents, sub-agents, special agents, 
jobbers, contractors, and hangers-on, who now infest the frontier States and territories, and save 
to the Government annually a sum of money which I will not venture to estimate. The army of- 
ficers detailed to perform duty in their places would receive no compensation in addition to their 
army pay. Prcivious to the creation of the Interior Department and the transfer of the Indian 
Bureau to that department, army officers performed well and honestly the duties of Indian 
agents, and it is only necessary to refer to our past history to demonstrate that our relations at 
that time with tlie Indians were far more friendly and satisfactory than they have been since. . . . 
The military are absolutely necessary in the Indian country to protect the lives and property of 
our citizens. Indian agents and superintendents are not necessary, since their duties have been 
and can still be faitiifully and efficient!}' performed bj' the army officers stationed with the troops. 
Harmonious and concerted action can never be secured while both parties are retained. The 
military are necessary — the civil officers are not; and as it is essential that the one or the other be 
displaced, I cannot see what doubt exists as to which party must give way. These are only the 
general reasons for the retransfer of the Indian Bureau to the NVar Department — reasons whicb 
are well understood by every one familiar with the subject. ... In order that any policy 
whatever may be consistently and efficiently pursued, a change in our present administration of 
Indian aflairs is absolutely essential. The retransfer of the Indian Bureau to the War Depart- 
ment is believed to be the first step toward a reformation, and until that step is taken it is useless 
to expect any improvement in the present condition of our Indian relations. 

I am, General, respectfully your obedient servant, 

John Tope, Brevet Major-General U. S. Army. 

GF:xEr.AL U. S. Gkant, General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C. 

Gencvul Grant was at th.at time so impressed Avitlt tlie importance of Gen- 
eral Pope's letter that he forwarded it to tlie Secret.-iry of "War, with the re- 
quest that it might be laid before both branches of Congress. 

It might be urggd that the above letters and statements are furnished by 
ofiicers of the army, who are exijonents of but one side of the question. Fortu- 
nately it is jTOSsible to go outside the military circle and introduce testimony 
which shotild be considered impartial and fi ee from bias. At this particular 



LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 121 

period iii the tliscussion of the Indian question, Colonel E. S. Parker, a highly 
educated and thorougldy cultivated gentleman, was asked to submit a plan 
for the establishment of a jjermanent and jierpetual peace, and for settling 
all matters of difiereuce between the United States and the various Indian 
tribes. 

Colonel Parker is well known as a distinguished chief of the once powerful 
Six Nations, and since the time referred to has been better known as Commis- 
sioner of Indian Affairs during the early part of the present administration. 
Being an Indian, his sympathies must be supposed to have been on the side of 
his own people, and in his endeavor to establish a permanent peace he would 
recommend no conditions prejudicial or unjust to their interests. He recom- 
mended : " First, the transfer of the Indian Bureau from the Interior Depart- 
ment back to the War Department, or military branch of the Government, 
where it originally belonged, until within the last few years. The condition 
and disposition of all the Indians west of the Mississippi river, as developed in 
consequence of the great and rapid influx of immigration by reason of the dis- 
covery of the precious metals throughout the entire West, renders it of the ut- 
most importance that military supervision should be extended over the Indians. 
Treaties have been made with a very large number of the tribes, and general- 
ly reservations have been provided as homes for them. Agents, appointed 
from civil life, have generally been provided to protect their lives and proper- 
ty, and to attend to the prompt and faithful observance of treaty stipulations. 
But as the hardy jiioneer and adventurous miner advanced into the inhospita- 
ble regions occui^ied by the Indians, in search of the precious metals, they 
found no rights possessed by the Indians that they were bound to respect. 
The faith of treaties solemnly entered into was totally disregarded, and Indian 
territory wantonly violated. If any tribe remonstrated against the violation 
of their natural and treaty rights, members of the tribe Avere inhumanly shot 
down, and the wliole treated as mere dogs. Retaliation generally followed, 
and bloody Indian Avars have been the consequence, costing many lives and 
much treasure. In all troubles arising in this manner, the civil agents have 
been totally powerless to avert the consequences, and when too late the mili- 
tary have been called in to protect the whites and punish the Indians, when if, 
in the beginning, the military had had the supervision of the Indians, their 
rights would not have been improperly molested, or if disturbed in their quiet- 
ude by any lawless whites, a prompt and summary check to any further ag- 
gression could have been given. In cases where the Government promises 
the Indians the quiet and peaceable possession of a reservation, and precious 
metals are discovered or found to exist upon it, the military alone can give the 
Indians the needed i^rotection, and keep the adventurous miner from encroach- 
ing upon the Indians until the Government has come to some understanding 
with tliem. In such cases the civil agent is absolutely jjowerless. 

" Most of the Indian treaties contain stipulations for the payment to Indians 
oi annuities, either in money or goods, or both, and agents are appointed to 
make these payments whenever Government furnishes them the means. I 
know of no reason why oilicers of the army could not make all these payments 
as well as civilians. The expense of agencies would be saved, and I thinJi 
the Indians would be more honestly dealt by. An officer's honor and interest 
are at stake, which impels him to discharge his duty honestly and faitlifuU}-, 
while civil agents have none of these incentives, the ruling passion with them 
being generally to avoid all trouble and responsibility and to make as much 



122 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

nionpy as possible out of their offices. In the retransfer of this bureau, I -would 
provide for the complete abolishment of the system of Indian traders, whiclu In 
mj opinion, is a great evil to Indian communities. I would make Govern- 
ment the purchaser of all articles usually brought in by Indians, giving them 
a f;iir equivalent for the same in money, or goods at cost prices. In this way 
it would be an easy matter to regulate the sale or issue of arms and ammuni- 
tion to Indians, a question which of late has agitated the minds of the civil and 
military authorities. If the entry of large numbers of Indians to any military 
post is objectionable, it can easily be arranged that only limited numbers shall 
be admitted daily." 

Colonel Parker next quotes from messages of Washington and Jefferson, 
showing that they had favored the exclusion of civil agents and tradei's. His 
recommendation then proceeds: "It is greatly to be regretted that this bene- 
ficent and humane jjolicy had not been adhered to, for it is a fact not to be de- 
nied, that at this day Indian trading licenses ;ire very much sought after, and 
wlien once obtained, although it may be for a limited period, the lucky j^osses- 
6or is considered as having already made his fortune. The eagerness also 
with which Indian agencies are sought after, and large fortunes made by the 
agents in a few years, notwithstanding the inadequate salary given, is pre- 
Bumptive evidence of frauds against the Indians and the Government. Many 
other reasons might be suggested why the Indian dej^artment should altogether 
be under military control, but a familiar knowledge of the j^ractical working 
of the present system Avould seem to be the most convincing pn^of of the pro- 
priety of the measure. It is pretty generally advocated by those most famil- 
iar with our Indian relations, and, so far as I know, the Indians themselves 
desire it. Civil officers are not usually respected by the tribes, but they fear 
and regard the military, and will submit to their counsels, advice, and dicta- 
tion, when they would not listen to a civil agent." 

In discussing the establishment of reservations, and the locating of the In- 
dians upon them. Colonel Parker says: "It maybe imagined that a seri- 
ous obstacle would be presented to the removal of the Indians from their 
homes on account of the love they bear for the graves of their ancestors. 
This, indeed, would be the least and last objection thiit would be raised by any 
tribe. Much is said in the books about the reverence paid by Indians to the 
dead, and their antipathy to deserting their ancestral graves. Whatever may 
have been the customs for the dead in ages gone by, and whatever pilgrim- 
ages may have been made to the graves of their loved and distinguished dead, 
none of any consequence exist at the present day. They leave their dead 
without any i)ainful regrets, or the shedding of tears. And how could it be 
otherwise with a people who have such indeiinite and vague ideas of a future 
state of existence? And to my mind it is unnatural to assume or suppose that 
the wild or untutored Indian can have more attachment for his home, or love 
for the graves of his ancestors, than the civilized and enlightened Christian." 

I regret that I cannot, in this brief space, give all the suggestions and re- 
commendations submitted by this eminent representative of the red man, dis- 
playing as they do sound judgment and thorough mastery of his subject. In 
regard to the expense of his plan he says: "I believe it to be more economi- 
cal than any other plan that could be suggested. A whole army of Indian 
agents, traders, contractors, jobbers, and hangers-on would be dispensed with, 
and from them would come the strongest opposition to the adoption of this 
plan, as it would effectually close to them the corrupt sources of tlieir wealth." 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 123 

General Grant, then commanding the army, must have aiijiroved at that 
time of the views of the distinguished Indian ; for a few years later, on 
entering iipon the duties of President of the United States, he ajjpointed him 
Commissioner of Indian Affairs, thus giving Colonel Parker an oi)i3ortunity to 
inaugurate tlie system whicli he had urged as being most conducive to the 
"welfai'e of liis people and tending to restrain them from aqts of war. The in- 
fluences brought to bear by the exponents of the peace policy, as it was termed, 
were too powerful to be successfully resisted, and Colonel Parker felt Iiimself 
forced to resign his position, for the reason, ;is stated by him, that tlie influ- 
ences operating against him were so great that he was unable to give effect to 
the principles wliich he believed should prevail in administeiHng tlie affairs of 
his important bureau. 

The latter part of the summer and fall of 1867 was not characterized by 
active operations eitlier ujjon the part of the troops or that of the Indians. A 
general council of all the tribes infesting the southern jilains was called to as- 
semble on "Medicine Lodge creek." This council was called in furtherance 
of a plan of pacification projwsed by Congress with a view to uniting and locat- 
ing all the tribes referred to on a reservation to be agreed upon. Congress pro- 
vided that the tribes invited to the council should be met by a peace commis- 
sion on the part of the Government, composed of members of each house of 
Congress, distinguished civilians, and ofiicers of the army of high rank. At 
this council all the southern tribes assembled ; presents in jDrofusion were dis- 
tributed among the Indians, the rule of distribution, I believe, being as usual 
that the worst Indians received the greatest number of valuable presents ; an 
agreement was entered into between the Indians and the representatives of 
the Government; reservations embracing a large extent of the finest portions 
of the public lands were fixed upon, to the ajjparent satisfaction of all con- 
cerned, and the promise of the Indians to occupy them and to keep away from 
the settlements and lines of travel was made without hesitation. This was the 
beginning of the promised era of peace. Tlie lion and the lamb had agreed to 
lie down together, but the sequel proved that when they got up again " the 
lamb wa* missing." 



XIII. 



Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet 'tis early mom ; 
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle horn. 

IN this instance, however, the bugle whose summoning notes I was sup- 
posed to be listening for was one of iieculiar structure, and its tones could 
only be rendered effective when pi'ompted by the will of the director at Wash- 
ington. In other words, I was living in involuntary but unregretful retire- 
ment from active service, I had spent the winter of 1867-'68 most agreeably 
with many of my comrades at Fort Leavenworth, but in the spring was forced 
to see them set out for tlieir summer rendezvous for operations against the In- 
dians, and myself compelled by superior authority, or rather by ''circum- 
stances over which I had no control," to remain in the rear, a non-combatant in 
every sense of the word; so much so that I might have been eligible to election 
as honorary member of some one of tliose preponderous departments refer- 
red to by General Hazen in " The School and the Army," as " holding military 
rank, wearing the uniform," but living in complete " official separation from the 
line," except that I was not "divided from it in heart and sjmipathy." It is a 
happy disposition that can content itself in all phases of fortune by the saying 
that "that which cannot be cured must be endured." I had frequent recourse 
to th's and similar consoling expressions, in the endeavor to reconcile mj'self 
to the separation from my command. For fear some of my readers may not 
comprehend my situation at the time, I will briefly remark in parenthesis, and 
by way of note of explanation, that for precisely what I have described in 
some of the preceding chapters, the exact details of which would be out of 
place here, it had apparently been deemed necessary that my connection with 
certain events and transactions, every one of which has been fully referred 
to heretofore, should be submitted to an official examination in order to deter- 
mine if each and every one of my acts had been performed with a due regard 
to the customs of war in like cases. To enter into a review of the proceed- 
ings which followed, would be to introduce into these pages matters of too per- 
sonal a character to interest the general reader. It Avill suffice to say that I 
was placed in temporary retirement from active duty, and this result seemed 
satisfactory to those parties most intimately concerned in the matter. When, 
in the spring of 18G8, the time arrived for the troops to leave their winter 
quarters, and march westwai'd to the "Plains, the command with which I 
had been associated during the preceding year left its station at Fort Leaven- 
worth, Kansas, and marched westward about three hundred miles, there to en- 
gage in operations against the Indians. While they, under command of Gen- 
eral Sullj', were attempting to kill Indians, I was studying the jn'oblem of how 
to kill time in the most agreeable manner. My campaign was a decided suc- 
cess. I established my base of operations in a most beautiful little town on 
the western shores of Lake Erie, from which I projected various hunting, fish- 
ing, and boating expeditions. With abundance of friends and companions, 
and ample success, time pivssed pleasantly enough ; yet withal there was a con- 
stant longing to be with my comrades in arms in the far West, even wl)ile 
aware of the fact that their campaign was not resulting in any material advan- 



LIFE ON THE PLAIXS. 125 

tij^e I had no reason to believe that I would be permitted to rejoin them un- 
til the following winter. It was on the evening of the 2-tth of September, and 
when about to " break bread " at the house of a friend in the little town re- 
ferred to that I received the following telegram : 

Headquarteus Department of the Missouri, ) 
In the Field, Fort Hats, Kansas, September 24, 1868. ) 
General G. A. Custer, Monroe, Michigan : 

Generals Sbermau, Sullj', and myself, and nearly all the officers of your regiment, have asked 
for you, and I hope the application will be successful. Can you couio at once ? Eleven compa- 
nies of your regiment will move about the Ist of October against the hostile Indians, from Medi- 
cine Lodge creek toward the Wicliita mountains. 

(Signed) P. H. Sheridan, Major General Commanding, 

The reception of this despatch was a source of unbounded gratification to 
me, not only because I saw the opportunity of being actively and usefully em- 
ployed opened before me, but there were personal considerations inseparable 
from the proposed manner of my return, which in themselves were in the 
highest degree agreeable ; so much so that I felt quite forbearing toward each 
and every one who, whether intentionally or not, had been a party to my re- 
tirement, and was almost disposed to favor tliem with a cojjy of the preceding 
despatch, accompanied by an expression of my hearty thanks for the uninten- 
tional favor they had thrown in my way. 

Knowing that the application of Generals Siierman and Sheridan and the 
other officers referred to would meet with a fixvorable reply from the author- 
ities at Washington, I at once telegraphed to General Sheridan that I would 
start to join him by the next train, not intending to Avait the official order which 
f knew would be issued by the War Department. The following day found 
nie on a railway train hastening to the plains as fast as the iron horse could 
carry me. The expected order from Washington overtook me that day in the 
shape of an official telegram from the Adjutant General of the Army, direct- 
ing me to proceed at once and report for duty to General Sheridan. 

At Fort Leavenworth I halted in my journey long enough to cause my 
liorses to be shipped by rail to Fort Hays. Nor must I omit two other foithful 
comijanions of my subsequent marches and camjjaigns, named Blucher and 
Maida, two splendid specimens of the Scotch staghouud, who were destined to 
share the dangers of an Indian campaign and finally meet death in a tragic 
manner — the one by the hand of the savage, the other by an ill-directed bullet 
from a friendly carbine. Arriving at Fort Hays on the morning of the 30th, 
I found General Sheridan, who had transferred his headquarters temporarily 
from Fort Leavenworth to that point in order to be nearer the field of oi)era- 
tious, and better able to give his personal attention to the conduct of the com- 
ing campaign. My regiment was at that time on or near the Arkansas river 
in the vicinity of Fort Dodge, and about three easy marches from Fort Hays. 
After remaining at General Sheridan's headquarters one day and receiving his 
instructions, I set out with a smtill escort across the country to Fort Dodge to 
resume command of my regiment. Arriving at Fort Dodge witliout incident, 
I found General Sully, who at that time Avas in command of the district in 
which my regiment was serving. With the exception of a few detachments, 
the main body ®f She regiment was encamped on Bluff creek, a small tribu- 
tai-y of the Arkansas, the camp being some thirty miles southeast from Foi't 
Dodge. Taking with me the detachment at the fort, I proceeded to the main 
eamp, arriving there in the afternoon. I had scarcely assumed command when 



126 LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

a band of Indians dashed close up to oar camp and fired upon us. This was crctting 
into active service quite rapidly. I was in the act of taking my seat fordinnei", 
my ride having given me a splendid relish for tlie repast, when the shouts and 
firing of the savages informed me that more serious dnties were at hand. 
Everj^ man flew to arms and almost without command rushed to oppose the 
enemy. Officers and men provided themselves with rifles or carbines, and 
soon began delivering a deliberate but ineftective fire against the Indians. 
The latter, as usual, were merely practising their ordinary ruse de guerre, 
which was to display a very small venturesome force in the expectation of 
tempting pursuit'by an equal or slightly superior force, and, after having led 
the pursuing force well away from the main body, to surround and destroy it 
by the aid of overwhelming numbers, previously concealed in a ravine or am- 
bush until the proper moment. On this occasion the stratagem did not suc- 
ceed. The Indians, being mounted on their fleetest ponies, would charge in 
single file past our camp, often riding within easy carbine range of our men, 
displaying great boldness and unsurpassable horsemanship. The soldiers, un- 
accustomed to firing at such rapidly moving objects, were I'arely able to 
inflict serious damage upon their enemies. Occasionally a pony would be 
struck and brought to the ground, but the rider always succeeded in being car- 
ried away upon the pony of a comrade. It was interesting to witness their 
marvellous abilities as horsemen; at the same time one could not but admire 
the courage thej'' displayed. The ground was level, open, and unobstructed; 
the troops were formed in an irregular line of skirmishers dismounted, the line 
extending a distance of perhaps two hundred yards. The Indians had a ren- 
dezvous behind a hillock on the right, which prevented them from being seen 
or disturbed by the soldiers. Starting out singly, or by twos and threes, the 
warriors would suddenly leave the cover of the hillock, and with war whoopa 
and taunts dash over the plain in a line parallel to that occupied by the sol- 
diers, and within easy carl)ine range of the latter. The pony seemed possessed 
of the designs and wishes of his dusky rider, as he seemed to fly unguided by 
bridle, rein, or spur. The warrior would fire and load and fire again as often 
as he was able to do, while dashing along through the shower of leaden bullets 
fired above, beneath, in front, and behind him by the excited troopers, until fi- 
nallj', when the aim of the latter improved and the leaden messengers whistled 
uncomfortably close, the warrior would be seen to cast himself over on the op- 
posite side of his pony, until his foot on the back and his face under the neck 
of the pony were all that could be seen, the rest of his person being completely 
covered by the body of the iwny. This manoeuvre would frequently deceive 
the recruits among the soldiers; having fired probably about the time the war- 
rior was seen to disappear, the recruit Avould shout exultingly and call the at- 
tention of his comrades to his lucky shot. The old soldiers, however, were 
not so easily deceived, and often afterwards would remind their less experi- 
enced companion of the terrible fatality of his shots. 

After finding that their plan to induce a small party to pursue them did not 
succeed, the Indians withdrew their forces, and, concealment being no longer 
necessary, Ave were enabled to see their full numbers as that portion of them 
which had hitherto remained hidden behind a blufi" rode boldly out on the open 
plain. Being beyond rifle range, they contented themselves with taunts and 
gestures of defiance, then rode away. From the officers of the camj} I learned 
that the performance of the Indians which had occupied our attention on this 
afternoon was of almost daily occurrence, and that the savages, from having 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 127 

been allowed to continue in their course unmolested, had almost reduced the 
camp to a state of siege ; so true had this become that at no liourof the day was 
it safe for individuals to pass beyond the chain of sentinels which enveloped 
the immediate limits of the camp. Before it became known that the Indians 
were so watchful and daring, many narrow escapes were made, and many 
laughable although serious incidents occurred — laughable, however, only to 
those who were not the parties most interested. Two of these serio-comic af- 
fairs now recur to me. Tliere was a beautiful clear stream of water, named 
Bhiff creek, running through camp, wliich supplied batliing facilities to the 
officers and men, a privilege which but few allowed to pass unimproved. 
Whether to avoid the publicity attending localities near camp, or to seek a 
point in tlie bed of the stream where the water was fresh and undisturbed, or 
from a motive difl'erent from eitlier of these, two of our young officers mounted 
tlieir horses one day without snddlcs and rode down the valley of the stream 
perhaps a mile or more in search of a bathing {Mace. Discovering one to their 
taste, they dismounted, secured tlieir horses, and, after disposing of their ap- 
parel on the greensward covering the banks, Avere soon floating and flound- 
ering in. the water like a pair of young porpoises. How long they had been 
enjoying this healthful recreation, or how much longer they might have re- 
mained, is not necessary to the story. One of them happening to glance to- 
ward their horses observed the latter m a state of great trepidation. Hasten- 
ing from the water to the bank, he discovered the cause of the strange conduct 
on the part of the horses, which was nothing more nor less than a party of about 
thirty Indian warriors, mounted, and stealthily making their Avay toward the 
bathing party, evidently having their eyes on the latter, and intent upon their 
capture. Here was a condition of afiiiirs that was at least as unexpected as it 
was unwelcome. Quickly calling out to his companion, who was still in the 
water unconscious of approaching danger, the one on sliore made haste to un- 
fasten their liorses and prepare for flight. Fortunately the Indians, who were 
now witliin a few hundred yards of tlie two officers, were coming from the di- 
rection opposite caraj), leaving the line of retreat of the officers open. No soon- 
er did the warriors find that tlieir approach was discovered tlian tliey put their 
ponies to their best speed, hoping to capture the officers before the latter could 
have time to mount and get their horses under headway. The two officers In 
tlie meanwhile were far from idle; no flesh brushes or bathing towels were re- 
quired to restore a liealthy circulation, nor was time wasted in an idle attempt 
to make a toilet. If they had sought their bathing ground from motives of 
retirement or delicacy, no such sentiments were exhibited now, for, catching up 
their wardrobe from the ground in one hand and seizing the bridle rein with 
the other, one leap and thej' Avere on their horses' backs and riding toward 
camp for dear life. They were not exactly in the condition of Flora McFlim- 
sy with nothing to wear, but to all intents and purposes might as well have 
been so. Then followed a race which, but for the risk incurred by two of the 
riders, might well be compared to that of John Gilpin. Both of the oflicers 
were experienced horsemen; but what experienced horseman would willingly 
care to be thrust upon the bare back of a flying stee?!!, minus all ai:)parel, 
neither boots, breeches, nor saddle, not even the sjjurs and shirt collar which 
are said to constitute the full uniform of a Georgian colonel, and when so 
disposed of, to have three or four score of hideously painted and feathered sav- 
ages, well mounted and near at hand, straining every nerve and urging their 
fleet-footed war ironies to their highest speed in order that the scalps of the ex- 



128 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

peri«ncecl horsemon might be .idtled to the other human trophies which 
gi'ace their lodges? Truly this was one of the occasions when personal ap- 
pearance is nothing, and "a man's a man for a' that," so at least thought our 
amateur Mazejjpas as they came dashing toward camp, ever and anon casting 
anxious glances over their shoulders at their pui'suers, who, despite every exer- 
tion of the former, were surely overhauling their pale-faced brotliers. To the 
pursuetl, camp seemed a long way in the distance, while the shouts of the war- 
riors, each time seeming nearer than before, warned them to urge their steeds 
to their fastest pace. In a few moments the occupants of camp discovered the 
approacii of this strangely appearing party. It was an easy matter to recog- 
nize the warriors, but who could name the two who rode at the front? The 
pursuing warriors, seeing that they were not likely to overtake and capture 
the two knights of the bath, slackened their jiace and sent a volley of arrows 
after them. A few moments later and the two otlicers were safe inside 
tlie lines, where they lost no time in making their way to their tents to at- 
tend to certain matters relating to their toilet which the sudden appearance 
of their dusky visitors had prevented. It was a long time before they ceased 
to hear allusions made by their comrades to the cut and style of their riding 
suit. 

The other affixir to which I have alluded occurred about the same time, but 
in a dillerent direction from camp. One of the officers, who was commanding 
a troop, concluded one day that it would be safe to grant permission to a part 
of his command to leave camjj for the purjjose of hunting bufi'alo and obtain- 
ing fresh meat for the men. The hunting party, being strong enough to jjro- 
tect itself against almost any ordinary war i)arty of Indians that might present 
itself, left camp at an early hour in the morning and set out in the direction in 
which the buflalo were reported to be. Tlie forenoon passed away, noon 
came, and still no signs of the return of tlie huntei-s. The small hours of the 
afternoon began to come and go, and still no tidings from the hunters, who 
were expected to return to camp after an absence of two or tliree hours. The 
officer to whose troop they belonged, and who was of an exceedingly nervous 
temperament, began to regret having accorded them permission to leave 
camp, knowing that Indians had been seen in the vicinity. The hunting party 
had gone by a route across the o2)en country which carried them up a long 
but very gradual ascent of perhaps two miles, beyond which, on the level 
plain, the bufl'alo Avere supposed to be herding in large numbers. Anxious to 
learn something concerning the whereabouts of his men, and believing ho 
could obtain a view of the country beyond which might prove satisfactory, the 
officer, Avhose suspense Avas constantly increasing, determined to mount Ills 
horse and ride to the summit of the ridge beyond which his men had disap- 
peared in the morning. Taking no escort witli him, he leisurely rode off, 
guided by the trail made by the hunters. The distance to the crest proved 
much further than it had seemed to the eye before starting. A ride of over 
two miles had to be made before the highest point was reached, but once tliere 
tlie officer felt well repaid for his exertion, for in the dim deceptions of a beau- 
tiful mirage he saw what to him was his hunting party leisurely returning to- 
ward camp. Thinking they were still a long distance from him and would 
not reach him for a considerable time, he did what every prudent cavalryman 
would have done under similar circumstances — dismounted to allow his horse 
an ojiportunity to rest. At the same time he began studying the extended 
scenery, which from his exalted position lay spread in all directions beneath 



LIn'E ON THE PLAINS. 129 

him. The camp, seen nestling along the banks of the creek at the base of tlia 
ridge, appeared as a pleasant relief to the monotony of the view, whicli otlier- 
wise was undisturbed. Having scanned the horizon in all directions, he 
turned to watch the approach of his men; when, behold! instead of his own 
trusty troopers returning laden with the fruits of the chase, the mirage had 
disappeared, and he saw a dozen well-mounted warrioi's riding directly to- 
ward him at full speed. They were still far enough away to enable him to 
mount his horse and have more than an even chance to outstrip them in the 
race to camp. But no time was to be thrown away; the beauties of natural 
scenery had, for the time at least, lost their attraction. Camp never seemed 
so inviting before. Heading his horse toward camp and gathering tlie reins 
in one hand and holding his revolver in the other, the officer set out to make 
his escape. Judgment had to be employed in riding this race, for the dis- 
tjmce being fully two miles before a place of safety could be reached, hia 
horse, not being high-bred and accustomed to going such a distance at full 
speed, might, if forced too rapidly at first, fail before reaching camp. Acting 
upon this idea, a tight rein was held and as much speed kept in reserve as 
safety would permit. This enabled the Indians to gain on the officer, but at 
no time did he feel that he could not elude his pursuers. His principal anx- 
iety was confined to the character of the ground, care being taken to avoid the 
rough and broken places. A single misstep or a stumble on the part of his 
horse, and his pursuers would be upon him before he could rise. The sensa- 
tions he experienced during that flying ride could not have been enviable. 
Soon the men in camp discerned his situation, and seizing their carbines 
hastened out to his assistance. The Indians were soon driven away and the 
officer again found himself among his friends. The hunters also nuide their 
appearance shortly after, well supplied with game. They had not found the 
buffalo as near camp as they had exi^ected, and after finding them were car- 
ried by a long pursuit in a difterent direction from that taken by them in the 
morning. Hence their delay in returning to camp. 

These and similar occui'rences, added to the attack made by the Indians on the 
camp the afternoon I joined, jjroved that unless we were to consider ourselves 
us actually besieged and were willing to accept the situation, some decisive 
course must be adopted to punish the Indians for their temerity. No oS'en- 
sive measures had been attempted since the infantry and cavalry forces of 
General Sully had marched up the hill and then, like the foi'ces of the king of 
France, had marched down again. The eftect of this movement, in Avhich the 
Indians gained a decided advantage, was to encourage them in their attempts 
to annoy and disturb the troops, not only by i:)rowling about camj} in consid- 
erable numbers and rendering it unsafe, as has been seen, to venture beyond 
the chain of sentinels, but by waylaying and intercepting all parties passing be- 
tween camp and the base of supplies at Fort Dodge. Knowing, from my recent 
interview with General Sheridan, that activity was to characterize the future 
operations of the troops, jiarticularly those of the cavalry,, and tliat the sooner a 
little activity was exhibited on our part the sooner perhaps might Ave be freed 
from the aggressions of the Indians, I returned from the afternoon skirmish 
to luy tent and decided to begin ofl'ensive movements that same night, as soon 
as darkness should conceal the march of the troops. It was reasonable to infer 
that the war parties which had become so troublesome in the vicinity of camp, 
and made their appearance almost daily, had a hiding jolace or rendezvous ou 
some of the many small streams which flowed within a distance of twenty 



130 LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

miles of tlie point occupied by the troops; and it was barely i^ossible that if a 
simultaneous niovenient was made by several well-conducted parties with a 
view of scouting up and down the various streams referred to, the hiding 
place of the Indians might be discovered and their forays in tlie future broken 
up. It was deemed most i)rudent, and to promise greatest chance of success, to 
malce tliese movements at night, as during the liours of dayliglit the Indians 
no doubt kept close watch over everything transpiring in the vicinity of camp, 
and no scouting party could have taken its departure in daylight unobserved 
by the watchful eyes of tlie savages. Four separate detachments were at once 
ordered to be in readiness to move immediatel}' after dark. Each detacliment 
numbered about one hundred cavalr}- well mounted and well armed. Guides 
who knew the country well were assigned to each, and each party was com- 
manded and accompanied by zealous and efficient officers. The country was 
divided into four sections, and to each detachment was assigned one of the sec- 
tions, with orders to thoroughly scout the streams running through it. It was 
hoped that some one of these parties might, if in no other way, stumble upon a 
cainp-fire or other indication of the rendezvous of the Indians; but subsequent 
experience only confirmed me in the opinion that Indians seldom, if ever, permit 
hostile parties to stumble upon them unless the stumblers are the weaker par- 
ty. Before proceeding further in my narrative I will introduce to the reader n 
personage who is destined to appear atdiflferent intervals, and upon interesting 
occasions, as the campaign proceeds. It is usual on the plains, and particu- 
larly during time of active hostilities, for every detachment of troops to be 
accompanied by one or more professional scouts or guides. These guides 
are employed by the government at a rate of compensation far in excess of 
that paid to the soldiers, some of tlie most experienced receiving pay about 
equal to that of a subaltern in the line. They constitute a most interesting as 
well as useful and necessary portion of our frontier population. Who they 
are, wiience they come or wdiither they go, their names even, except such as 
they choose to adopt or which may be given them, are all questions whicli 
none but tliemsclves can answer. As their usefulness to the service depends 
not upon the unravelling of either of these mj'sterie-;, but little thought is be- 
stowed upon tliem. Do you«knoAV the country thoroughly.'* and can you sjieak 
any of the Indian languages? constitute the only examination which civil or 
uncivil service reform demands on the plains. If the evidence on these two im- 
portant jjoints is satisfactory, tlie applicant for a vacancy in the corps of scouts 
may consider his position as secured, and the door to congenial employment, 
most often leading to a terrible deatli, opens before him. They are almost in- 
variably men of very superior judgment or common sense, with education 
generally better than that of the average frontiersman. Their most striking 
characteristics are love of adventure, a natural and cultivated knowledge of 
the country without recourse to maps, deep hatred of the Indian, and an inti- 
mate acquaintance witli all the habits and customs of the latter, whetiier per- 
taining to peace or war, and last but most necessary to their calling, skill in 
the use of firearms and in the management of a horse. The possessor of 
these qualifications, and more than the ordinary amount of courage, may feel 
equal to discharge tlie dangerous and trying duties of a scout. In concentrat- 
ing the cavalry which had hitherto been operating in small bodies, it was found 
that each detachment brought with it the scouts who had been serving with 
tlieni. When I joined tlie command I found quite a number of these scouts 
attached to various portions of the cavalry, but each acting separately. Foi 



LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 131 

the purposes of organization it was deemed best to unite them into a separate 
dotachinent under command of one of their own number. Being unacquainted 
personally Avith the merits or demerits of any of them, the selection of a chief 
had necessarily to bo made somewhat at random. There was one among 
their number whose appearance would have attracted the notice of any casual 
observer. He was a man about forty years of age, perhaps older, over six feet in 
height, and possessing a well-proportioned frame. His head was covered with 
a luxuriant crop of long, almost black hair, strongly inclined to curl, and so 
long as to fall carelessly over his shoulders. His face, at least so much of it 
as was not concealed by the long, waving brown beard and moustache, Avas 
full of intelligence and pleasant to look upon. His eye was undoubtedly hand- 
some, black and lustrous, with an expression of kindness and mildness com- 
bined. On his head was generally to be seen, whether asleep or awake, a huge 
sombrero or black slouch hat. A soldier's overcoat with its large circular 
cape, a pair of trousers with the legs tucked in the top of his long boots, 
usually constituted the outside make-up of the man whom I selected as 
chief scout. He was known by the eupliouious title of '* California Joe " ; 
no other name seemed ever to have been given him, and no other name 
ever seemed necessary. His military armament consisted of a long breech- 
loading Springfield musket, from which he was inseparable, and a revolver 
and hunting-knife, both the latter being carried in his waist-belt. His mount 
completed his equipment for the field, being instead of a horse a finely-formed 
mule, in Avhose speed and endurance he had every confidence. Scouts usually 
prefer a good mule to a horse, and wisely too, for the reason that in making 
tlieir perilous journeys, either singly or by twos or threes, celerity is one prin- 
cipal condition to success. The object with the scout is not to outrun or over- 
whelm the Indians, but to avoid both by secrecy and caution in his move- 
;^anents. On the plains at most seasons of the year the horse is incapable of 
iperforming long or rapid journeys without being supplied with forage on the 
route. This must be transported, and in the case of scouts would necessarily 
"be transported on the back of the horse, thereby adding materially to the Aveight 
which must be carried. The mule Avill perform a rapid and continuous march 
without forage, being able to subsist on the grazing to be obtained in nearly 
all tJie valleys on the plains during the greater portion of the year. Cali- 
fornia Joe Avas an inveterate smoker, and Avas rarely seen Avitliout his stubby, 
dingy-looking brierwood pipe in full blast. Tlie endurance of his smoking 
powers Avas only surpassed by his loquacity. His pipe frequently became ex- 
hausted and required refilling, but California Joe seemed never to lack for ma- 
terial or disposition to carry on a conversation, jirincipally composed of per- 
sonal adventures among the Indians, ej^isodes in mining life, or experience in 
overland journeying before the days of steam engines and palace cars ren- 
dered a trip across the plains a comparatively uneventful one. It Avas evident 
from tlie scraps of information volunteered from time to time, that tliere was 
but little of the Western country from the Pacific to the Missouri rlA^er Avith 
Avhich California Joe Avas not intimately acquainted. He had lived in Oregon 
years hefcrre, and had become acquainted from time to time Avith most of the 
officers Avho had served on the plains or on the Pacific coast. I once inquired 
of hira if he had ever seen General Sheridan? "What, Gineral Shuridun.^ 
Why, bless my soul, I knoAved Shuridun Avay up in Oregon more'n fifteen, 
yeai's ago, an' he wuz only a second lootenant uv infantry. He avuz quarter- 
master of the foot or something nr that sort, an' I hed the contract uv fur- 



183 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

nisliiu' wood to the post, and, would ye b'leve it? I bed a kind of a sneakiu' 
notion then that he'd hurt somebody ef they'd ever turn him loose. Lord, but 
ain't he old lightnin' ? " This Avas the man whom upon a short acquaintance I 
decided to appoint as chief of the scouts. This thrust of professional greatness, 
as tlie sequel will prove, was more than California Joe aspired to, or, con- 
eidcring some of his undeveloped traits, Avas equal to; but I am anticipating. 

As tlie four detachments already referred to were to move as soon as it was 
dark, it Avas desirable that the scouts should be at once organized and assigned. 
So, sending for California Joe, I informed him of his promotion and what 
was expected of him and his men. After this official portion of the interview- 
had been completed, it seemed proper to Joe's mind that a more intimate ac- 
quaintance between us should be cultivated, as we had never met before. His 
first interrogatory, addressed to me in furtherance of this idea, Avas frankly put 
as follows : " See hyar, Gineral, in order that Ave hev no misonderstandin', I'd 
jest like to ask ye a few questions." Seeing that I had somcAvhat of a char- 
acter to deal with, I signified my perfect willingness to be intervicAved by 
him. "Are you an ambulance man ur a boss man? " PretcKdiug not to dis- 
cover his meaning, I requested him to explain. " I mean do you b'leve in 
ctitchin' Injuns in ambulances or on hossback?" Still assuming ignorance, I 
replied, " Well, Joe, I believe in catching Indians wherever Ave can find them, 
whether they are found in ambulances or on horseback." This did not satisfy 
him. " That ain't what I'm drivin' at. S'pose you're after Injuns and really 
want to hev a tussle with 'em, Avould ye start after 'em on hossback, or Avould 
ye climb into an ambulance and be haulded after 'em ? That's the pint I'm 
headin' fur." I answered that " I would prefer the method on horseback 
provided I really desired to catch the Indians ; but if I wished them to catch 
me, I Avould adopt the ambulance system of attack." This reply seemed to 
give him complete satisfaction. " You've hit the nail squar on the bed. I've 
bin with 'em on the plains whar they started out after the Injuns on Avheels, 
jist as ef they war goin' to a town funeral in the States, an' they stood 'bout 
as many chances uv catchin' Injuns az a six-mvile team wud uv catchin' a pack 
of thievin' Ki-o-tees, jist as much. Why that sort uv Avork is only fan fur the 
Injuns ; they don't Avant anything better. Ye ort to've seen hoAV they peppered 
it to us, an' Ave a doin' nuthin' a' the time. Sum uv 'em avuz 'fraid the mules 
war goin' to stampede and run oflf Avith the train an' all our forage and grub, 
but that wuz impossible ; fur besides the big loads uv corn an' bacon an' bag- 
gage the Avagons lied in them, thar Avar from eight to a dozen infantry men 
piled into them besides. Ye ort to hev heard the quartermaster in charge uv 
the train tryin' to drive the infantry men out of the wagons and git them into 
the figlit. I 'spect he avuz an Irishman by his talk, fur he sed to them, ' Git 
out uv tliim Avagons, git out uv thim wagons; yez '11 hev me tried fur diso- 
badience uv ordhers fur marchin' tin min in a Avagon Avhin I've ordhers but 
fur ait!'" 

How long I might have been detained listening to California Joe's re- 
cital of incidents of first campaigns, sandwiched here and there by his pecu- 
liar but generally correct ideas of how to conduct an Indian campaign prop- 
erly, I do not know; time Avas limited, and I had to remind him of the fact to 
induce him to shorten the conversation. It Avas only deferred, hoAvever, as 
on every occasion thereafter California Joe Avould take his place at the 
head of the column on the march, and his nearest companion AA^as made the 
receptacle of a fresh instalment of Joe's facts and opinions. His c^xer as 
" chief scout " was of the briefest nature. Everything being in readiness, the 



LIFE ON THE PLAlivS. 133 

four scouting columns, the nien having renaoved their sabres to prevent clang- 
ing and detection, quietly moved out of camp as soon as it was sufficiently dark, 
and set out in dilferent directions. California Joe accompanied that de- 
tachment whose prospects seemed best of encountering the Indians. The rest 
of the camp soon afterward returned to their canvas shelter, indulging in all 
manner of surmises and conjectures as to the likeliliood of either or all of the 
scouting parties meeting with success. As no tidings would probably be re- 
ceived in camp until a late hour of the following day, taps, the usual signal 
from the bugle for "lights out," found the main camp in almost complete 
darkness, with only here and there a stray glimmering of light from the can- 
dle of some officer's tent, who was probably reckoning in his own mind how 
much he was losing or perhaps gaining by not accompanying one of the scout- 
ing parties. What were the chances of success to the four detachments which 
had departed on this all night's ride? Next to nothing. Still, even if no In- 
dians could be found, the expeditious would accomplish this much: they would 
leave their fresh trails all over the country within a circuit of twenty miles of 
our camp, trails which the practised eyes of the Indians would be certain to 
full upon in daylight, and inform them for the first time that an eftbrt was be- 
ing made to disturb them if nothing more. 

Three of the scouting columns can be disposed of now by the simple state- 
ment that they discovered no Indians, nor the remains of any camps or lodging 
places indicating the recent presence of a war party on any of the streams vis- 
ited by them. The fourth detachment was that one which California Joe had 
accompanied as scout. What a feather it would be in his cap if, after the fail- 
ure of the scouts accompanying the other columns to discover Indians, the 
party guided by him should pounce upon the savages, and by a handsome fight 
settle a few of the old scores charged against them ! 

The night was pjissing away uninterrupted by any such event, and but a 
few hours more intervened before daylight would make its appearance. The 
troops had been marching constantly since leaving camp; some were almost 
asleep in their saddles when the column was halted, and word was passed 
along from man to man that the advance guard had discovered signs indicat- 
ing the existence of Indians near at hand. Nothing more was necessary to 
dispel all sensations of sleep, and to place every member of the command on 
the alert. It was difficult to ascertain from the advance guard, consisting of a 
non-commissioned officer and a few privates, precisely what they had seen. 
It seemed that iu the valley beyond, into which the command was about to de- 
scend, and which could be overlooked from the position the troops then held, 
something unusual had been seen by the leading troopers just as they had 
reached the crest. What this mysterious something was, or how produced, no 
one could tell ; it appeared simj^ly for a moment, and then only as a bright flash 
of light of varied colors ; how far away it was impossible to determine in the 
heavy darkness of the night. A hasty consultation of the officers took place at 
the head of the column, when it was decided that in the darkness which then 
reigned it would be unwise to move to the attack of an enemy until something 
more was known of the numbers and position of the foe. As the moon would 
soon rise and dispel one of the obstacles to conducting a careful attack, it w.as 
determined to hold the troops in readiness to act upon a moment's notice, and 
at the same time send a picked party of men, under guidance of California 
Joe, to crawl as close to the supposed position of the Indians as possible, and 
gather all the information available. But where was California Joe all this 
time.'* Why was he not at the front where his services would be most likely 



184 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

to be in demand? Seai'ch was quietly made for him all along both flanks of 
the column, but on careful inquiry it seemed that he had not been seen for 
some hours, and then at a point many miles from that at which the halt had 
been ordered. This was somewliat reniarliable, and admitted of no explana- 
tion — unless, perhaps, California Joe had fallen asleep during the march 
and been carried away from the column; but this theory gained no supporters. 
His absence at this particular time, when his advice and services might prove 
BO invaluable, was regarded as most unfortunate. However, the party to ap- 
proach the Indian camp was being selected when a I'itle shot broke upon the 
stillness of the scene, sounding in the direction of tlie mysterious appearance 
which had first attracted the attention of the advanced troopers. Another 
moment, and the most powerful yells and screams rose in the same direction, 
as if a terrible conflict was taking place. Every carbine was advanced ready 
for action, each trigger was carefully sought, no one as yet being able to divine 
the cause of this sudden outcry, when in a moment who should come charging 
wildly up to the column, now dimly visible by the first rays of the moon, but 
California Joe, shouting and striking wildly to the right and left as if beset 
by a whole tribe of warriors. Here, then, was the solution of the mystery. 
Not then, but in a few hours, everything was rendered clear. Among the 
other traits or peculiarities of his character, California Joe numbered an 
uncontrollable fondness for strong drink; it was his one great weakness — a 
weakness to which he could only be kept from yielding by keeping all intoxi- 
cating drink beyond his reach. It seemed, from an after develojiment of the 
afiiiir, that the sadden elevation of California Joe, unsougljt and unexpected 
as it was, to the position of chief scout, was rather too much good fortune to be 
borne by him in a quiet or undemonstrative manner. Such a profusion of 
greatness had not been thrust upon him so often as to render him secure from 
being aftected by his preferment. At any rate he deemed the event deserving 
of celebration — professional duties to the contrary notwithstanding — and before 
proceeding on the night expedition had filled his canteen with a bountiful sup- 
ply of the worst brand of whiskey, such as is only attainable on the frontier. 
He, perhaps, did not intend to indulge to that extent whiiih might disable him 
from properly performing his duties ; but in this, like many other good men 
whose appetites are stronger than their resolutions, he failed in his reckoning. 
As the liquor which he imbibed from time to time after leaving camp began 
to produce the natural or unnatural eftVct, Joe's independence greatly increased 
until the only part of the expedition Avhich he recognized as at all important 
was California Joe. His mule, no longer restrained by his hand, gradually 
carried him away from the troops, until the latter were left far in the rear. 
This was the relative position when the halt was ordered. California Joe, 
kaving indulged in drink sufficiently for the time being, concluded that the 
next best thing would be a smoke; nothing would be better to cheer him on 
Ills lonely night ride. Filling his ever present brierw'ood with tobacco, he next 
proceeded to strike a light, employing for this purpose a storm or tempest 
match ; it was the bright and flashing colors of this which had so suddenly at- 
tracted the attention of the advance guard. No sooner was his pii)e lighted 
than the measure of his happiness was complete, his imagination picturing him 
to himself, perhaps, as leading in a gi-and Indian fight. His mule by this 
time had turned toward the troops, and when California Joe set up his un- 
earthl}^ howls, and began his imaginary charge into an Indian village, lie was 
carried at full sj^eed straiglit to the column, where his good fortune alone pre- 
vented him from receiving a volley before he was recognized as not an Indian. 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 135 

His blood was up, and nil eftbrts to quiet or suppress him proved unavailing, 
until liually the ollicer in command was forced to bind him hand and foot, and 
in this condition secured him on the back of his* faithful mule. In this sorry 
plight the chief scout continued until the return of the troops to camp, when 
he was transferred to the teniler mercies of the guard as a prisoner for mis- 
conduct. Thus ended California Joe's career as chief scout. Another was 
appointed in his stead, but we must not banish him from our good opinion 
yet. As a scout, responsible only for himself, he will reappear in tUese 
pages with a record which redounds to his credit. 

Nothing was accomplished by the four scouting parties except, perhaps, 
to inspire the troops with the idea that they were no longer to be kept 
actinij merely on the defensive, wliile the Indians, no doubt, learned the 
same fact, and at the same time. The cavalry had been lying idle, except 
when attacked by the Indians, for upward of a month. It was reported that 
tlie war parties, which had been so troublesome for some time, came from the 
direction of Medicine Lodge creek, a stream running in the same general di- 
rection as Blulf creek, and about two marches from the latter in a northeaster- 
ly direction. It was on this stream — Medicine Lodge creek — that the great 
peace council had been held with all the southern tribes with wltom we had 
been and were then at war, the Government being represented at the coun- 
cil by Senators and other members of Congress, officers high in rank in the 
army, and prominent gentlemen selected from the walks of civil life. The 
next move, after the unsuccessful attempt in which California Joe created 
the leading sensation, was to transfer the troops across from Bluflt" creek to 
Medicine Lodge creek, and to send scouting parties up and down the latter in 
search of our enemies. This movement was made soon after the return of the 
four scouting expeditions sent out from Bluff creek. As our first day's march 
was to be a short one, we did not break camp on Bluff creek until a late hour 
in the morning. Soon everything was in readiness for the march, and like a 
ti'avelling village of Bedouins, the troopers and their train of supplies stretched 
out into column. First came the cavalry, moving in column of fours; next 
came the immense wagon train, containing the tents, forage, rations, and ex- 
tra ammunition of the command, a very necessary but unwieldy portion of a 
mounted military force. Last of all came the rear guard, usually consisting 
of about one company. On this occasion it was the comjiiany commanded by 
the officer whose narrow escape from the Indians while in search of a party 
of his men who had gone buffalo hunting, has been already described in this 
chapter. The conduct of the Indians on ti)is occasion proved tliat they had 
been keeping an unseen but constant watch on everything transpiring in or 
about camp. The column had scarcely straightened itself out in commencing 
the march, and the rear guard had barely crossed the limits of tlie deserted 
camp, when out from a ravine near by dashed a war party of fully fifty well- 
mounted, well-armed warriors. Their first onslaught was directed against the 
rear guard, and a determined effort was made to drive tliem from the train, 
and thus place the latter at their mercy, to be plundered of its contents. After 
disposing of flankers, for the purpose of resisting any efforts which might be- 
made to attack the train from either flank, I rode back to where the rear 
guard were engaged, to ascertain if they required reinforcements. At the 
same time orders were given for the column of troops and train to continue 
the march, as it was not intended that so small a party as that attacking us 
should delay our march by any vain effort on our jiart to ride them down, or 



136 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

overhaul them, when we knew they coukl outstrip us if the contest was to be 
decided by a race. Joining the rear guard, I had an opportunity to witness 
the Indian mode of fighting in all its perfection. Surely no race of men, 
not even the famous Cossacks, could display more wonderful skill in feats 
of horsemansliip than the Indian warrior on his native plains, mounted on 
his well-trained war j^ony, voluntarily running the gauntlet of his foes, draw- 
ing and receiving the fire of hundreds of rifles, and in return sending back a 
perfect shower of arrows, or, more likely still, well-directed shots from some 
souvenir of a peace commission, in the shape of an improved breecli-loader. 
The Indian warrior is capable of assuming positions on his pony, the latter at 
full speed, whicli no one but an Indian could maintain for a single moment 
without being thrown to the ground. The ponj-, of course, is perfectly trained, 
and seems possessed of the spirit of his rider. An Indian's wealth is most 
generally expressed by the number of his ponies. No warrior or chief is of :iny 
importance or distinction who is not the owner of a herd of ponies numbering 
from twenty to many hundreds. He has for each special purpose a certain 
number of ponies, those that are kept as pack animals being the most inferior 
in qualitj' and value ; then the ordinai-y riding ponies used on the march or 
about camp, or when visiting neighboring villages ; next in consideration is the 
" buffalo ponj'," trained to the hunt, and only employed when dashing into the 
midst of the huge buffalo herds, when the object is either food from the flesh 
or clothing and shelter for the lodges, to be made from the buffalo liide ; last, 
or leather first, considering its value and importance, is the " war pony," the 
fiivorite of the herd, fleet of foot, quick in intelligence, and full of courage. It 
may be safely asserted that the first place in the heart of the warrior is held 
by his faithful and obedient war pony. 

Indians are extremely fond of bartering, and are not behindhand in catch- 
ing the points of a good bargain. They will sign treaties relinquishing their 
lands, and agree to forsake the burial ground of their forefathers ; they will 
part, for due considei-ation, with their bow and arrows, and their accompany- 
ing quiver, handsomely wrought in dressed furs ; their lodges even may be 
purchased at not an unfair valuation, and it is not an unusual thing for a chief 
or warrior to offer to exchange his wife or daughter for some article which 
may have taken his fancy. This is no exaggeration ; but no Indian of the 
plains has ever been known to trade, sell, or barter away his favorite " war 
pony." To the warrior his battle horse is as the apple of his eye. Neither love 
nor money can induce him to part witli it. To see them in battle, and to wit- 
ness how the one almost becomes a part of the other, one might well apply to 
the warrior the lines — 

But this gallant 

Had witchcraft in 't ; he grew into his seat, 

And to such wondrous dohig brought his horse, 

As he had been encorps'd and demi-natur'd 

With the brave beast ; so far he passed my thought 

Tliat I, in forgery of shapes and tricks. 

Come short of what he did. 

The ofBcer in command of the rear guard expressed the opinion that he 
could resist successfully the attacks of the savages until a little later, when it 
was seen that the latter were receiving accessions to tlieir strength and were 
becoming correspondingly bolder and more difficult to repulse, when a second 
troop of cavalry was brought from the column, as a suj^port to the rear guard. 
These last were ordered to fight on foot, their horses, in charge of every fourth 
ti'ooper, being led near the train. Tlie men being able to fire so much more 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 137 

accurately when on foot, compelled the Indians to observe gi'eatei" caution in 
their manner of attack. Once a warrior was seen to dasli out from the rest in 
the peculiar act of "circling," which was simply to dasli along in front of the 
line of troopers, receiving their lire and firing in return. Suddenly his pony, 
while at full speed, was seen to fall to tlie ground, showing that tlie aim of at 
least one of the soldiers had been eflective. The warrior was thrown over and 
beyond the pony's head, and his capture by the cavalry seemed a sure and easy 
matter to be accomplished. I saw him fall, and called to the ofilcer command- 
ing the troop which had remained mounted to gallop forward and secflre the 
Indian. The troop advanced rapidly, but the comrades of the fallen Indian 
had also witnessed his mishap, and were rusliing to his rescue. lie was on his 
feet in a moment, and the next moment another warrior, mounted on the fleet- 
est of ponies, was at his side, and witli one leap the dismounted warrior placed 
himself astride the pony of his companion; and thus doubly burdened, the gal- 
lant little steed, with his no less gallant riders, galloped liglitly away, with 
about eighty cavalrymen, mounted on strong domestic horses, in full cry after 
them. There is no doubt but that by all the laws of chance the cavali-y should 
have been able to soon overhaul and capture the Indians in so unequal a race ; 
but whether from lack of zeal on the part of the oflicer commanding the pur- 
suit, or from the confusion created by the diversion attempted by the remaining 
Indians, the pony, doubly weighted as he was, distanced his pursuers and landed 
his burden in a place of safety. Although chagrined at the failure of the pur- 
suing party to accomplish the capture of the Indians, I could not wholly sup- 
press a feeling of satisfaction, if not gladness, that for once the Indian had 
eluded the white man. I need not add that any temporary tenderness of feel- 
ing toward the two Indians was prompted by their individual daring and the 
heroic display of comradeship in the successful attempt to render assistance 
to a friend in need. 

Without being able to delay our march, yet it required the combined 
strength and resistance of two full troops of cavalry to defend the train from 
the vigorous and dashing attacks of the Indians. At last, finding that the com- 
mand was not to be diverted from its purpose, or hindered in completing its 
regular march, the Indians withdrew, leaving us to proceed unmolested. 
These contests with the Indians, while apparently yielding the troops no de- 
cided advantage, were of the greatest value in view of future and more exten- 
sive operations against tlie savages. Many of the men and horses were far 
from being familiar Avith actual warfare, particularly of this irregular charac- 
ter. Some of the troopers were quite inexperienced as horsemen, and still 
more inexpert in the use of their weapons, as their inaccuracy of fire when at- 
tempting to bring down an Indian within easy range clearly proved. Their 
experience, resulting from these daily contests with the red men, was to prove 
of incalculable benefit, and fit them for the duties of the coming campaign. 
Our march was completed to ISledicine Lodge creek, where a temporary camp 
was established, while scouting parties were sent both up and down the 
stream as far as there was the least probability of finding Indians. The party, 
consisting of three troops, which scouted down the valley of Medicine Lodge 
creek, proceeded down to the point where was located and then standing the 
famous " medicine lodge," an immense structure erected by the Indians, and 
used by them as a council house, where once in each year the various tribes of 
the southern plains were wont to assemble in mysterious conclave to consult 
the Great Spirit as to the future, and to offer up rude sacrifices and engage in 
imposing ceremonies, such as were believed to be apjpeasing and satisfactory 



138 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

to the Indian Deity. In the conduct of these strange and interesting incanta- 
tions, the presiding or directing personages are known among the Indians as 
"medicine men." They are the high priests of the red man's religion, and in 
their jjeculiar sphere are superior in influence and authority to all others in the 
ti'ibe, not excepting the head chief. No important step is proposed or put in 
execution, whether relating to war or peace, even the proba'ole success of a 
contemplated hunt, but is first submitted to the powers of diTination confident- 
ly believed to be possessed by the medicine man of the tribe. He, after a 
series of enchantments, returns the answer supposed to be prompted by the 
Great Spirit, as to whether the proposed step is well advised and promises 
success or not. The decisions given by the medicine men are supreme, and 
admit of no appeal. The medicine lodge just referred to had been used as 
the place of assembly of the grand council held between the warlike tribes and 
tlie rei^resentatives of the Government, referred to in preceding pages. The 
medicine lodge was found in a deserted but well-preserved condition. Here 
and there, hanging overhead, were collected various kinds of herbs and plants, 
vegetable offerings no doubt to the Great Spirit; while, in strange contrast 
to these peaceful specimens of the fruits of the earth, were trophies of the war 
path and the chase, the latter being represented by the horns and dressed skins 
of animals killed in the hunt, some of the skins being beautifullj' ornamented 
in the most fantastic of styles peculiar to the Indian idea of art. Of the tro- 
phies relating to war, the most prominent were human scalps, representing all 
ages and sexes of the white race. These scalps, according to the barbarous 
custom, were not composed of the entire covering of the head, but of a small 
surface surrounding the crown, and usuallj- from tlu'ee to four inches in diame- 
ter, constituting Avhat is termed the scalp lock. To preserve the scalp from 
decay, a small hoop of about double the diameter of the scalp is i^repai'ed 
from a small withe, which gi'ows on the banks of some of ihe streams in the 
West. The scalp is placed inside the hoop, and pi'operlj' stretched by a net- 
work of thread connecting the edges of the scalp with the circumference of the 
hoop. After being properly cured, the dried fleshy ])ortion of the sculp is or- 
namented in bright colors, according to the taste of the c:ii)tor, sometimes the 
addition of beads of bright and varied colors being made to heighten the ellect. 
In other instances the hair is dyed, either to a beautiful yellow or golden, or to 
crimson. Several of these horriljle evidences of past depredations upon the de- 
fenceless inhabitant^ of the frontier, or overland emigrants, were brought back 
by the troopers on their return from their scout. Old trails of sm:ill parties of 
Indians were discovered, but none indicating the recent presence of war ]iar- 
ties in that valley were observable. The command was then marched back to 
near its former camp on Bluft' creek, from whence, after a sojourn of three or 
four days, it marched to a point on the north bank of the Arkansas river, 
about ten miles below Fort Dodge, there to engage in earnest prej^aration and 
reorganization for the winter campaign, which was soon to be inaugurated, and 
in which the Seventh Cavalry w:is to bear so prominent a part. We iiitched 
our tents on the banks of the Arkansas on the 21st of October, 18G8, there to 
remain usefully emploj-ed luitil the 12th of the following month, when we 
mounted our horses, bade adieu to the luxuries of civilization, and turned our 
faces toward the Wichita mountains m the endeavor to drive from their win- 
ter hiding places the savages who had during the ^mst summer waged such 
ruthless and cruel war upon our exposed settlers on the border. IIow far and 
in what way we were successful in this eflfort, will be learned in the following 
chapter. 



XIV. 



IN concluding to go into camp for a brief period on the banks of the Arkan- 
sas, two important objects were in view: first, to devote the time to re- 
fitting, reorganizing, and renovating generally that portion of the command 
which was destined to continue active operations during the inclement winter 
season; second, to defer our movement against the hostile tribes imtil the last 
traces of the fall season had disappeared, and winter in all its bitter force 
should be upon us. We had crossed weapons with the Indians time and again 
during the mild summer months, when the rich verdure of the valleys served 
as bountiful and inexhaustible granaries in supplying forage to their ponies, and 
tlie immense herds of buftalo and other varieties of game roaming undisturbed 
over the Plains supplied all the food that was necessary to subsist the Avar 
parties, and at the same time allow their villages to move freely from point to 
point; and tiie experience of both oflicers and men went to prove that in at- 
tempting to fight Indians in the summer season we were yielding to them the 
advantages of climate and supplies — we were meeting them on ground of their 
own selection, and at a time when every natural circumstance controlling the 
result of a camimign was Avholly in their fiivor; and as a just consequence the 
troops, in nearly all these contests with the red men, had come off second best. 
During the grass season nearly all Indian villages are migratory, seldom re- 
maining longer than a few weeks at most in any one locality, depending en- 
tirely upon the supply of grass ; when this becomes exhausted tlie lodges are 
taken down, and the entire tribe or band moves to some other point, chosen 
with reference to the supply of grass, water, wood, and game. Tlie distance 
to the new location is usually but a few miles. During the fall, when the buf- 
faloes are in the best condition to furnish food, and the hides are suitable to be 
dressed as robes, or to furnish covering for the lodges, the grand annual hunts 
of the tribes take place, loy which the supply of meat for the winter is pro- 
cured. This being done, the cliiefs determine upon the points at which the 
village shall be located; if the tribe is a large one, the village is often subdivi- 
ded, one portion or band remaining at one point, other portions choosing lo- 
calities within a circuit of thirty or forty miles. Except duk-ing seasons of the 
most perfect peace, and when it is the firm intention of the chiefs to remain on 
friendly terms with the whites at least during the winter and early spring 
months, the localities selected for their winter resorts are remote from the mil- 
itary posts and frontier settlements, and the knowledge which might lead to 
them carefully withheld from every white man. Even during a moderate 
winter season, it is barely jjossible for the Indians to obtain sufllcient food for 
tlieir ponies to keep the latter in anytliing above a starving condition. Many 
of the ponies actually die from want of forage, while the remaining ones be- 
come so weak and attenuated that it requires several weeks of good gi'azing in 
the spring to fit them for service — particularly such service as is required from 
the war ponies. Guided by tiiese facts, it was evident that if Ave chose to 
avail 'ourselves of the assistance of so exacting and terrible an ally as the frosts 
of Avinter — an ally Avho Avould be almost as uninviting to friends as to foes — we 
might deprive our enemy of his points of advantage, and force him to engage 
ia a combat in Avhich we should do for him Avhat he had hithei-to done for us; 



140 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

compel him to fight upon ground and under circumstances of our own selec- 
tion. To decide upon making a winter campaign against the Indians was cer- 
tainly in accordance with that maxim in the art of war which directs one to do 
tliat which the enemy neither expects nor desires to be done. At the same time 
it would dispel the old-fogy idea, which was not without supporters in the 
army, and which was confidently relied on by the Indians themselves, that the 
winter season was an insurmountable barrier to the prosecution of a success- 
ful campaign. But aside from the delay which Avas necessary to be submitted 
to before the forces of winter should produce their natural but desired eliect 
ujjon our enemies, there was much to be done on our part before we could be 
ready to cooperate in an ofiensive movement. 

The Seventh Cavalry, which was to operate in one body during the coming 
campaign, was a comparatively new regiment, dating its existence as an organ- 
ization from July, 1866. The officei's and companies had not served together 
before with much over half their full force. A large number of fresh liorses 
were required and obtained; these had to be drilled. All the horses in the 
command were to be newly shod, and an extra fore and hind shoe fitted to each 
horse ; tliese, with the necessaiy nails, were to be carried by each trooper in 
tlie saddle pocket. It has been seen that the men lacked accuracy in the use 
of their carbines. To correct this, two drills in target practice were ordered 
each day. The companies were marched sej^arately to the ground wliere the 
tai'gets had been erected, and, under the supervision of the troop ofilcers, were 
practised daily in firing at targets placed one hundred, two hundred, and three 
hundred yards distant. The men had been previously informed that out of the 
eight hundred men composing the command, a picked corps of sliarpshooters 
would be selected, numbering forty men, and made up of the forty best marks- 
men in the regiment. As an incentive to induce every enlisted man, whether 
non-commissioned officer or private, to strive for appointment in the shari>shoot- 
ers, it was given out from headquarters that tie men so chosen would be re- 
garded, as they really would deserve to be, as the elite of the command ; not 
only regarded as such, but treated with corresponding consideration. For ex- 
ample, they were to be marched as a separate organization, indejjendently of 
the column, a matter which in itself is not so trifling as it may seem to those 
who liave never participated in a long and wearisome march. Then again no 
guard or picket duty was to be required of the sharpshooters, which alone was 
enough to encourage every trooper to excel as a marksman. Besides these 
considerations, it was known that, should we encounter the enemy, the sharp- 
shooters would be most likely to be assigned a post of honor, and would have 
superior oi^portunities for acquiring distinction and rendering good service. 
The most generous as well as earnest rivalry at once sprung up, not only be- 
tween the various companies, as to which should secure the largest represenki- 
tion among the sliarpshooters, but the rivalry extended to individutils (jf the 
same company, each of whom seemed desirous of the honor of being considered 
as " one of the best shots." 

To be able to determine the matter correctly, a record of eveiy sliot fired 
by each man of the command, throughout a period of upAvards of one montli, 
was carefully kept. It was surprising to observe the marked and rapid im- 
provement in the accuracy of aim attained by the men generally during this 
period. Two drills at target practice each day, and allowing each man an op- 
portunity at every drill to become fjxmiliar with the handling of his carbine, 
and in judging of the distances of the different targets, worked a most satisfao 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 141 

tory improvement in the average accuracy of fire; so that at the end of the 
period named, by taking the record of each trooper's target practice, I was en- 
abled to select forty marksmen in whose ability to bring down any warrior, 
Avliether mounted or not, who might challenge us, as we had often been chal- 
lenged before, I Mb every confidence. They were a superb body of men, and 
felt the greatest pride in their distinction. A sufficient number of non-com- 
missioned officers, Avho had proven their skill as marksmen, were included in 
the organization — among them, fortunately, a first sergeant, whose expertness 
in the use of any firearm was well established throughout the command. I re- 
member having seen him, while riding at full speed, bring down four buffa- 
loes by four consecutive shots from his revolver. When it is remembered that 
even experienced hunters are usually compelled to fire half a dozen shots or 
more to secure a single buffalo, this statement will appear the more remarka- 
ble. The forty sharpshooters being supplied with their complement of ser- 
geants and corporals, and thus constituting an organization by themselves, only 
lacked one important element, a suitable commander — a leader who, aside 
fiom being a thorough soldier, should possess ti'aits of character which would 
not only enable him to employ skilfully the superior abilities of those who 
were to constitute his command, but at the same time feel that esprit cle corps 
which is so necessary to both officers and soldiers Avhen success is to be 
achieved. Fortunately, in my command were a considerable number of young 
officers, nearly all of whom were full of soldierly ambition, and eager to gi-asp 
any opportunity which opened the way to honorable preferment. The diffi- 
culty was not in finding an officer properly qualified in every way to command 
the sharpshooters, but, among so many who I felt confident would render a 
good account of themselves if assigned to that position, to designate a leader 
par excellence. The choice fell upon Colonel Cook, a young officer whose ac- 
quaintance the reader will remember to have made in connection with the 
plucky fight he had with the Indians near Fort Wallace the preceding summer. 
Colonel Cook, at the breaking out of the rebellion, although then but a lad of 
sixteen years, entered one of the New York cavalry regiments, commencing 
at the foot of the ladder. He served in the cavalry arm of the service through- 
out the war, participating in Sheridan's closing battles near Richmond, his ser- 
vices and gallantry resulting in his promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colo- 
nel. While there were many of the young officers who would have been, 
pleased if they instead of another had been chosen, there was no one in the 
ccoiimand, perhai^s, who did not regard the selection as a most judicious one. 
Future events only confirmed this judgment. 

After everything in the way of reorganization and refitting which might be 
considered as actually necessary had been ordered, another step, bordering on 
the ornamental perhaps, although in itself useful, was taken. This was what 
is termed in the cavalry " coloring the horses," which does not imply, as might 
be inferred from the expression, that we actually changed the color of our 
horses, but merely classified or arranged them throughout the different squad- 
rons and troops according to the color. Hitherto the horses had been distri- 
buted to the various companies of the regiment indiscriminately, regardless of 
color, so that in each company and squadron horses were found of every color. 
For uniformity of appearance it was decided to devote one afternoon to a gen- 
ei'al exchange of horses. The troop commanders were assembled at head- 
quarters and allowed, in the order of their rank, to select the color they pre- 
ferred. This being done, every public horse in the command was led out and 



142 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

pl.ioed in line: the grays collected at one point, tlie bays — of ■which there was 
u great ijreponderance in numbers — :it another, the bhi.cks at anutlier, the sor- 
rels by themselves; then the chestnuts, the blacks, the browns; and last of all 
came what were jocularly designated the " brindles," being the odds and 
ends so far as colors were concerned — roans and other mixed colors — the junior 
troop commander of course btecoming the reluctant i-eeipient of these last, val- 
uable enough except as to color; The exchanges having been completed, the 
men of each trooj) led away to their respective picket or stal)le lines their 
ncwlj'-acquired cliargers. Arriving upon their coviipany gro.unds, another as- 
signment in detail was made by the troop commanders. First, the non-com- 
missioned officers were permitted to select their horses in the order of theii 
rank; then the remaining horses were distributed among the troojiei's gener- 
all}', giving to the best soldiers the best horses. It was surprising to witness 
wliat a great improvement in the handsome appearance of tlie command Avas 
effected by tliis measure. The change when first projDo-ed had not been 
greeted with much favor by many of the troopers who by long service and 
association in tmies of danger had become warmly attached to their horses; 
but tlie same reasons which had endeared the steed to the soldier in the one 
instance, soon operate in the same manner to render the new acquaintances 
fast friends. 

Among tlie other measures adopted for carrying the war to our enemy's 
doors, and in a manner "figlit the devil with fire," was the emj^loyment of In- 
dian allies. These were to be procured from the *' reservation Indians," 
tribes who, from eno:ao:ing in long and devastating wars Avith the whites and 
■with other hostile bands, had become so reduced in power as to be glad to 
aA'ail themselves of the protection and means of subsistence offered by the re- 
servation plan. These trilies were most generally tlie objects of hatred in ttie 
eyes of their more powi-rful and independent neighbors of the Plains, and the 
latter, Avhen making their raids and bloody incursions upon the Avhite settle- 
ments of the frontiers, did not hesitate to visit their wrath equally upon whites 
and reservation Indians. To these smaller tribes it was a welcome opportu- 
nity to be permitted to .ally themselves to the forces of tlie Government, 
and endeavor to obtain that satisfaction which acting alone they were power- 
less to secure. The tribes against Avhicli we proposed to operate during the 
approaching campaign had been particularly cruel and relentless in their 
wanton attacks upon the Osages and Kaws, two tribes living peaceably and 
contentedly on well-chosen reservations in southwestern Kansas and tlie 
northern jDortion of the Indian Territory. No assistance in fighting the hostile 
tribes was desired, but it was believed, and correctly too, that in finding the 
enemy and in discovering the location of liis winter hiding-places, the experi- 
ence and natural tact and cunning of the Indians Avopld be a powerful auxil- 
iary if we could enlist them in our cause. An officer was sent to the village 
of the Osages to negotiate with the head chiefs, and*Avas successful in his mis- 
sion, returning with a delegation consisting of the second chief in rank of the 
Osage tribe, named "Little Beaver," "Hard Rope," the counsellor or wise 
man of his people, and eleven warriors, with an interpreter. In addition to the 
monthly rate of compensation which the Government agreed to give them, they 
were also to be armed, clothed, and mounted at Government expense. 

Advices from General Sheridan's headquai'ters, then at Fort Hays, Kansas, 
were received early in November, informing us that the time for resuming 
active operations was near at hand, and urging the early completion of aU 



LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 143 

pveliminaries looking to that end. Fort Dodj^e, on the Arkansas river, was 
the extreme post south in the direction proposed to Ije taken by us, until the 
Red river should be crossed and tlie nortlnvestern posts of Texas could be 
reached, which were further south tlian our movements would probably carry 
us. To use Fort Dodge as our base of supplies, and keep open to that point 
our long line of communications, would have been, considering the character 
of tlie country anil tliat of the enemy to be encountered, an impracticable matter 
with our force. To remedy this a temporary base was decided upon, to be 
established about one hundred miles soutli of Fort Dodge, at some point yet 
to be determined, from which we could obtain our supplies during the winter. 
With this object in view an immense train, consisting of about foiu- hundred 
army wagons, was loaded with forage, rations, and clothing, for the supply of 
the troops composing the expedition. A guai'd composed of a few companies 
of infantry was detailed to accompany the trains and to garrison the point 
which was to be selected as tlie new base of supplies. Everytiiing being in 
readiness, the cavalry moved from its camp on the north bank of the Arkansas 
on the morning of the 12th of November, and after fording the river began its 
march toward the Indian Territory. Tliat night we encamped on ]\Iulberry 
creelc, where we were joined by the infixntry and tlie supply train. General 
Sully, commanding the district, here took active command of the combined 
forces. Much anxiety existed in the minds of some of the officers, remem- 
bering no doubt their late experience, lest the Indians should attack us while 
on the march, when, hampered as we should be in the protection of so large a 
train of wagons, we might fare badly. The country over which we were to 
march was favoraljle to us, as we were able 'to move our trains in four parallel 
columns formed close together. This arrangement shortened our flanks and 
rendered them less exposed to attack. The following morning after reaching 
IVIulberry creek the march Avas resumed soon after daylight, the usual order 
being: the four hundred wagons of the sujjply train and those belonging to 
the troops formed in four equal columns; in advance of the wagons at a 
proper distance rode the advance guard of cavalry; a corresponding cavalry 
force formed the rear guard. The remainder of the cavalry was divided into 
two equal parts, and these parts again divided into three equal detachments ; 
these six detachments were disposed of along the flanks of the column, three 
on a side, maintaining a distance between themselves and the train of from a 
quarter to half a mile, while each of them had flanking parties thrown out op- 
posite the train, rendering it impossible for an enemy to appear in any direc- 
tion without timely notice being received. The infantry on beginning the 
march iti the morning wei'e distributed throughout the train in such manner 
that should the enemy attack, their services could be rendered most eft'ective. 
Unaccu^omed, however, to field service, particularly mai'ching, the infantry 
apparently were only able to march for a few hours in the early part of the day, 
when, becoming weary, they would straggle from their companies and climb into 
the covered wagons, from which there was no determined eflbrt to rout them. 
In the afternoon there would be little evidence percejDtible to the eye that in- 
fantry formed any portion of the expedition, save here and there the butt of a 
musket or point of a bayonet peeping out from under the canvas wagon-covers, 
or pei'haps an ofiicer of infantry '' treading alone his native heath," or better 
still mounted on an Indian pony, the result of some barter with the Indians 
when times were a little more peaceable, and neither wars nor rumors of wars 
disturbed the monotony of garrison life. Nothing occurred giving us any clue 



144 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

to the whereabouts of Indians until we had been mavchiiig sevevnl days and 
were movin*;^ down the valley of Beaver creek, when our Indian guides dis- 
covered the trail of an Indian war party, numbering, according to their esti- 
mate, from one hundred to one hundred and fifty warriors, mounted and mov- 
ing in a northeasterlj' direction. The trail was not over twenty-four hours 
old, and by following it to the jioint where it crossed Beaver creek, almost the 
exact numbers and character of the party could be determined from the fresh 
signs at the crossing. Everything indicated that it was a war party sent from 
the very tribes we were in search of, and thd object, judging from the direc- 
tion they had been moving, and other circumstances, was to make a raid on the 
settlements in Western Kansas. As soon as we had reached camp for the 
night, which was but a short distance from the point at which we crossed the 
Indian trail, I addressed a commimication to the senior officer, who was com- 
manding the expedition, and, after stating the facts learned in connection with 
the trail, requested that I might be permitted to take the cavalry belonging to 
the expedition, leaving the trains to be guarded by the infanti-y, whose num- 
bers were ample for this purpose, and with the Indian scouts as trailers set 
out early the next morning, folloAving the trail of tlie war party, not in the 
direction taken by them, as this would be an idle attempt, but in the du'eo- 
tion from which they came, expressing the conviction that such a course would 
in all probability lead us direct to the villages of the marauders, which was the 
ultimate object of the movement we were thus engaged in. By so doing we 
miglit be able to strike a prompt blow against our enemies, and visit swift 
punishment upon the w.ar party, whose liostile purposes were but too evident. 
In these views I was sustained l)y the opinions of our Indian allies, who ex- 
pressed confidence in their ability to take the trail and follow it back to the 
villages. The officer to whom my application was submitted, and whose sanc- 
tion was necessary before I could be authorized to execute my proposed plan, 
returned an elaborate argument attempting to prove that no successful results 
could possibly attend the undertaking I had suggested, and ended with the 
remark that it was absurd to suppose for one moment that a large military 
force such as ours was, and accompanied by such an immense train of wagons, 
could move into the heart of the Indian country and their presence remain un- 
discovered by the watchful savages for even a single day. Tliis specious rea- 
soning sounded well — read well — but it gave no satisfaction to the men and 
officers of the cavalry, all of wliom tliought they saw a fine opportunity neg- 
lected. However, we shall strike this trail again, but on difterent ground and 
under different circumstances. Great as was our temporary disappointment 
at being restrained, the result satisfied all of us that, for very different reasons 
from those adduced to withhold us from making the jwoposed movement, all, 
as tlio sequel proved, was for the best. On the sixtli day after Ic-aving our 
camp on the north bank of the Arkansas the exjjedition arrived at tlie point 
which was chosen as our future base, where the infantry were to remain and 
erect quarters for themselves and storehouses for the military supplies. The 
point selected — which was then given the name it now bears, Camp Supply — 
was in the angle formed by Wolf and Beaver creeks, about one mile above the 
junction of these two streams. Tliese streams by their union form the north 
fork of the Canadian river. Tlie exact geographical location of the j^oint re- 
ferred to is lat. oG deg. 30 min., long. 99 deg. 30 min., being in the neighbor- 
hood of one hundred miles in a southerly direction from Fort Dodge on the 
Arkansas. We of the cavalry knew that our detention at this point would 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 145 

be but brief. "Within two oi* three days of our arrival tlie hearts of the eutiro 
command were gladdened by tlie sudden appearance in our midst of strong 
reinforcements. These reinforcements consisted of General Sheridan and stafl'. 
Hearing: of his near approach, I mounted my horse and was soon galloping 
beyond the limits of camp to meet him. If there were any persons in tlie 
command who hitlierto had been in doubt as to whetlier the proposed winter 
campaign was to be a reality or otherwise, such persons soon had cause to dis- 
pel all mistrust on this point. Selecting from the train a sufficient number of the 
best teams and wagons to transport our sup^jlies of rations and forage, enough 
to subsist the command upon for a period of thirty days, our arrangements 
were soon comjileted by which the cavalry, consisting of eleven companies and 
numbering between eight and nine hundred men, were ready to resume the 
march. In addition we were to be accompanied by a detachment of scouts, 
among the number being California Joe ; also our Indian allies from the Osage 
tribe, headed by Little Beaver and Hard Rope. As the country in which 
we were to operate was beyond the limits of the district which constituted the 
command of General Sully, tliat officer was relieved from further duty with 
the troo^JS composing the expedition, and in accordance with his instructions 
withdrew from Camp Supply and returned to his headquarters at Fort Harker, 
Kansas, accompanied by Colonel Keogh, Seventh Cavalry, then holding the 
position of stalf officer at district headquarters. 

After remaining at Camp Supply six days, nothing was required but the 
formal order directing the movement to commence. This came in the shape 
of a brief letter of instructions from Department headquarters. Of course, as 
nothing was known positively as to the exact whereabouts of the Indian villa- 
ges, the instructions had to be general in terms. In substance, I was to march 
my command in search of the winter hiding-places of the hostile Indians, and 
wherever found to administer such punishment for past depredations as my 
force was able to. On the evening of November 22d, orders were issued to be 
in readiness to move promptly at daylight the following morning. That night, 
in the midst of other final preparations for a long separation from all means of 
communication with absent friends, most of us found time to hastily pen a few 
parting lines, informing them of our proposed expedition, and the uncertainties 
with which it was surrounded, as none of us knew when or where we should 
be heard from again once we bade adieu to the bleak hospitalities of Camp 
Supply. Alas! some of our number were destined never to return. It began 
snowing the evening of the 22d, and continued all night, so that when the 
shrill notes of the bugle broke the stillness of the morning air at reveille on 
the 23d, we awoke at four o'clock to find the ground covered with snow to a 
depth of over one foot, and the storm still raging in full force. Surely this 
was anything but an inviting prospect as we stepped from our frail canvas 
shelters and found ourselves standing in the constantly and rapidly increasino* 
depth of snow which appeared in every direction. •' How will this do for a 
winter campaign? " was the half sarcastic query of the adjutant, as he came 
trudging back to the tent through a field of snow extending almost to the top 
of his tall troop boots, after having received the reports of the different com- 
panies at reveille. "Just what we want," was the rej^ly. Little grooming 
did the shivering horses receive from the equally uncomfoi'table troopers that 
jnorning. Breakfast was served and disposed of more as a matter of form and 
regulation than to satisfy the appetite; for who, I might inquire, could rally 
much of an appetite at five o'clock in the moi-ning, and when standing around 



146 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

A camp fire almost up to tlie knees in snow? The signal, "The general, for 
tents to be taken down and wagons paclced for the march, gave every one em- 
ployment. Upon the principle that a short horse is soon curried, and as wo 
were going to take but little with us in the way of baggage of any description, 
the duties of packing up were soon performed. It still lacked some minutes 
of dayliglit when the various commanders reported their commands in readi- 
ness to move, save the final act of swaddling the horses, which only arrested tlie 
signal sounds of the chief bugler at headquarters. " Boots and saddles " rang 
forth, and each trooper grasped his saddle, and the next moment was busily 
engaged arranging and ilisposing of the few buckles and stra2)s upon which the 
safety of his seat and the comfort of his horse depende<l. While they were 
thus emjiloj-ed, my horse being already saddled and held near by, by the or- 
derly, I improved the time to gallop through the darkness across the narrow 
plain to the tents of General Sheridan, and say good-by. I found the head- 
quarter tents wrapped in silence, and at fiist imagined that no one was yet 
stirring except the sentinel in front of the GeneraFs tent, who kept up his lone- 
ly tread, apparently indift'erent to the beating storm. But I had no sooner 
given the bridle-rein to my orderly than the familiar tones of the General 
called out, letting me know that he was awake, and had been an attentive lis- 
tener to our notes of preparation. His first greeting was to ask what I thought 
about the snow and the storm. To which I replied that nothing could be more 
to our purpose. We could move and the Indian villages could not. If the 
snow only remained on the ground one week, I promised to bring the General 
satisfactory evidences that my command had met the Indians. With an ear- 
nest injunction from my chief to keep him informed, if possible, should anything 
important occur, and manj^ hearty wishes for a successful issue to the cam- 
paign, I biide him adieu. After I had mounted my horse, and had started to 
rejoin my comnxand, a staflf officer of tlie General, a particular friend, having 
just been awakened by the conversation, called out, while standing in the door 
of his tent enveloped in the comfortable folds of a huge buft'alo robe, " Good- 
by, old fellow ; take care of yourself! " and in these brief sentences the usual 
farewell greetings between brother officers separating for service took place- 
By the time I rejoined my men the}' had saddled their horses and were in rea- 
diness for the march. " To horse " was sounded, and each trooper stood at his 
horse's head. Then followed the commands '* Prepare to mount " and " IVIount," 
when nothing but the signal "Advance" was required to put the column in 
motion. The band took its jilace at the head of the column, preceded by the 
guides and scouts, and when the march began it was to the familiar notes of 
that famous old marching tune, "The girl I left behind me." 

If we had entered into solemn compact with the clerk of the weather — this 
being before the reign of " Old Probabilities " — to be treated to winter in its 
severest aspect, we could have claimed no forfeiture on account of non-fulfil- 
ment of contract. We could not refer to the oldest inhabitant, that mythical 
personage in most neighborhoods, to attest to the fact that this was a storm 
unparalleled in severity in that section of country. The snow continued to de- 
scend in almost blinding clouds. Even the appearance of daylight aided us 
but little in determining the direction of our march. So dense and heavy were 
the falling lines of snow, that all view of the surface of the surrounding coun- 
try, upon which the guides depended to enable tliem to run their course, was 
cut off. To such an extent was this true that it became unsafe for a person to 
wander from the column a distance eqyal to twice the width of Broadway, aa 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 147 

in tliat short space all view of the column was prevented hy the storm. None 
of the command except the Indian guides had ever visited the route we desired 
to follow, and tliey were foi'ced to confess that until the storm abated sufficient- 
ly to permit them to catch glimpses of the landmarks of the country, thej' 
could not undertake to guide the troops to the iwint where we desired to 
camp that night. Here was a serious obstacle encountered quite early in the 
campaign. 

The point at which we proposed to encamp for the night was on Wolf 
creek, only some twelve or fifteen miles from Camp Supply, it not being in- 
tended that our first day's progress should be very great. We had started, 
however, and notwithstiinding the discouraging statements of our guides it 
would never do to succumb to opposition so readily. There was but onp 
course to pursue now that the guides could no longer conduct us with certainty 
and that was to be guided — like the mariner in mid-ocean — by the never-fail- 
ing compass. There are few cavalry officers but what carry a compass in some 
more or less simple form. Mine was soon in my hand, and having determined 
as accurately as practicable, from my knowledge of the map of the country, the 
direction in which we ought to move in order to strike Wolf creek at the de- 
sired camping ground, I became for the time guide to the column, and after 
marching until about two p. M. reached the valley of Wolf creek, where a 
rx*sting place for the night was soon determined upon. There was still no sign 
of abatement on the jxart of the Aveather. Timber was found along the banks 
of the creek in ample quantity to furnish us with fuel, but so imbedded in 
snow as to render the prospect of a camp fire very remote and uncertain. Our 
march of fifteen miles through tlie deep snow and blinding storm had been 
more fixtiguing to our horses than an ordinary march of thirty miles would 
have been. Our wagons were still far in rear. While they were coming up 
every man in the command, officers as well as enlisted men, set briskly to work 
in gathering a good supply of wood, as our personal comfort in camp in such 
weather would be largely dependent on the quality and quantity of our fire- 
wood. Fallen and partly seasoned trees were in great demand, and, when dis- 
covered in the huge beds of snow, were soon transformed, under the vigorous 
blows of a score of axes, into available fuel. It was surprising as well as grat- 
ifying to witness tlie contentment and general good humor everywhere pre- 
vailin'g throughout the command. Even the chill of winter and the bitterest 
of storms were insufficient to produce a feeling of gloom, or to suppress the oc- 
casional ebullition of mirthful feeling which ever and anon would break forth 
from some Celtic or Teutonic disciple of Mars. Fires were soon blazing upon 
'the grounds assigned to the diffijrent troops, and upon the arrival of the wag- 
ons, which occurred soon after, the company cooks were quickly engaged in 
preparing the troopers' diimer, while the servants of the officers were employed 
in a similar manner for the benefit of the hU;ter. While the cooks were so en- 
gaged, officers and men were busily occupied in pitching the tents, an opera- 
tion which under the circumstances was most difficult to perform satisfactorily, 
for the reason that before erecting the tent it was desirable, almost necessary, 
to remove the snow from the surface of the ground intended to form the floor 
ef the tent; otherwise the snow, as soon as a fire should be started within the 
tent, would melt and reduce the ground to a very muddy condition. But so rap- 
idly did the large flakes continue to fall that the most energetic efforts of two 
persons were insufficient to keep the ground properly clear; such at least was 
the experience of Lieutenant Moylau, the adjutant, and myself, in our earnest 



148 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

endeavoi-s to render oar temporary abiding place a fit habitation for the night. 
Tents up at hist, dinner was not long in being prepared, and even less time 
employed in disposing of it. A good cup of strong coflee went far toward 
reconciling us to everything that had but a few moments before appeared 
somewliat uninviting. By this time a cheerful fire was blazing in the centre 
of our tent; my comfortable bed of buffalo robes was prepared on a framework 
of strong boughs, and with my ever-faithful dogs lying near me, I was soon )-e- 
clining in a state of comparative comfort, watching the smoke as it ascended 
through the narrow apex of the tent, there to mingle with the descending flakes 
of snow. In regard to the storm still prevailing outside, and which in itself or 
its efl'ects we were to encounter the following morning and for an indefinite 
period thereafter, I consoled myself with the reflection that to us it was as an 
unpleasant remedy for the removal of a still more unpleasant disease. If the 
storm seemed terrible to us, I believed it would prove to be even more terrible 
to our enemies, the Indians. Promptly at the appointed hour, four o'clock the 
following morning, camp was bustling and active in resjjonse to the bugle 
notes of reveille. The storm had abated, the snow had ceased fiilling, but that 
which had fallen during the previous twenty-four hours now covered the 
ground to a depth of upward of eighteen inches. The sky Avas clear, however, 
or, to adopt the expressive language of California Joe, " the travellin' was 
good overhead." It is always a difficult matter, the first few days of a march, 
to inculcate upon the minds of the necessary hangers-on of a camp, such as 
teamsters, wagon-masters, etc., the absolute necessity of promptness and strict 
obedience to orders, particularly orders governing the time and manner of 
marching; and one or two days usuallj' are required to be devoted to disci- 
plining these unruly characters. When the hour arrived which had been pre- 
viously designated as the one at which the command Avould begin the second 
day's march, the military portion were in complete readiness to " move out," 
but it was found that several of the teams were still unharnessed and the tents 
of the wagon-masters still standing. This was a matter requiring a prompt 
cure. The officer of the day was directed to proceed with his guard, and, after 
hastening the unfinished preparations for the march, to arrest the wagon-mas- 
ters and most dilatory of the teamsters, and compel them to march on foot as 
a punishment for their tardiness. This was no slight matter, considering the 
great depth of the snow. So effective was this measure that not many hours 
had elapsed before the deposed drivers and their equally unfortunate superiors 
sent through the officer of the guard a humble request that they be permitted 
to resume their places in the train, promising at the same time never to give 
renewed cause for complaints of tardiness to be made against them. Their re- 
quest was granted, and their promise most faithfully observed during the re- 
mainder of the campaign. 

All of the second day we continued to march up the valley of the stream 
we had chosen as our first camping ground. The second night we encamped 
under circumstances very similar to those which attended us the first night, 
except that the storm no longer disturbed, us. The snow did not add to our 
discomfort particularly, save by increasing tlie difficulty of obtaining good and 
sufficient fuel. Our purpose was to strike the Canadian river in the vicinity of 
" Antelope Hills," which are famous and prominent landmarks In that re- 
gion, and then be governed in our future course by circumstances. Resum- 
ing the march at daylight on tlie morning of the third (\iiy, our route still kept 
us in the valley of Wolf creek, on whose banks we were to encamp for the 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 149 

third time. Nothing was particularly worthy of notice during our third day's 
march, except the immense quantities of game to be seen seeking the weak 
shelter from the storm offered by the little strips of timber extending along the 
valleys of Wolf creek and its tributaries. Even the buffalo, with their huge, 
shaggy coats — sufficient, one would imagine, to render the wearer indifferent 
to the blasts of winter — were frequently found huddled together in the timber, 
and so drowsy or bennmbed from the effects of the cold as to not discover our 
approach until we were within easy pistol range, when the Indian guides and 
our white scouts who rode in advance would single out those appearing in 
best condition, and by deliberate aim bring them down. Details . of a few 
ti'oopers from each company were left at these points to cut up the butchered 
game and see to its being loaded in the company wagons as the trains came 
along. In this way a bountiful supply of good fresh meat was laid in, the weather 
favoring the keeping of the meat for an indetinite period. Occasionally we 
would discover a herd of bufl'aloes on the bluffs overlooking the stream. Then 
would occur some rare scenes of winter sport : a few of the officers and men 
would obtain permission to lead the column and join in the chase — an indulg- 
ence that could be safely granted, as no fears were entertained that hostile In- 
dians were in our immediate vicinity. Tiie deep snow was a serious obstacle 
to exliibiting speed either in the buffalo or his pursuers. It was most laugh- 
able to witness the desperate and awkward efforts of buffalo, horse, and rider, 
in the frantic endeavor to make rapid headway through the immense fields of 
snow. Occasionally an unseen hole or ditch or ravine covered up by the snow 
would be encountered, when the buffalo or his pursuer, or perhaps all three — 
horse, rider, and buffalo — would disappear in one grand tumble in the depths 
of the snowdrifts, and when seen to emei'ge therefrom it was difficult to de- 
termine which of the three was most badly frightened. Fortunately no acci- 
dents occurred to mar the pleasure of the excitement. Seeing a fine herd of 
young buS'aloes a short distance in the advance, I determined to test the cour- 
age of my stag-hounds "Blucher" and "Maida." Approaching as near the 
herd as possible before giving them the alarm, I managed to single out and 
cut off from the main herd a fine yearling bull. My horse, a trained hunter, 
was soon alongside, but I was unable to use my pistol to bring the young buf- 
falo down, as both the dogs were running close to eitlier side, and by resolutely 
attacking him endeavoring to pull him down. It was a new experience to 
them ; a stag they could easily have mastered, but a lusty young buffalo bull 
was an antagonist of different calibre. So determined had the dogs become, 
their determination strengtljened no doubt by the occasional vigorous blows 
received from tlie ready hoofs of the buffalo, that I could not call them oft"; 
neither could I render them assistance from my pistol, for fear of injuring 
them. There was nothing left for me to do but to become a silent although 
far from disinterested participant in the chase. The immense drifts of snow 
through which we were struggling at our best pace would soon vanquish one 
or the other of the party; it became a question of endurance simply, and the 
buffiilo was the first to come to grief. Finding escape by running impossible, 
he boldly came to bay and faced his pursuers ; in a moment both dogs had 
grappled with him as if he had been a deer. Blucher seized him by the 
tlu'oat, Maida endeavored to secure a firm hold on the shoulders. The result 
was that Blucher found himself well trampled in snow, and but for the latter 
would have been crushed to death. Fearing for the safety of my dogs, I leaped 
from my horse, who I knew would not leave me, and ran to the assistance of 



150 LIFE ON THE PLAINS, 

the st:i;^-hounds. Drawing my hunting-knife and w.itcliing a favorable oppor- 
tunity, I succeeded in cutting tlie liamstrings of the bufl'alo, wlucli had the ef- 
fect to tumble him over in the snow, when I was enabled to despatch him 
with my pistol. 

On tliatafternoon we again encamped in the same valley up which we had been 
moving during the past three days. Tiie next morning, following the load of 
our Indian guides, wlio had been directed to conduct us to a point on tlie Cana- 
dian river near the Antelope Hills, our course, which so far had been westerly, 
now bore off almost due south. After ascending gradually for some hours to the 
crest or divide whicli sloped on the north down to the valley of the stream we had 
just left, we reached the highest line and soon began to gradually descend again, 
indicating that we were approaching a second valley ; this the Indians assured 
us was the valley of the Canadian. Delayed in our progress by the deep snow 
and the difficulty from the same cause always experienced by our guides in se- 
lecting a practicable route, darkness overtook us before the entire command ar- 
rived at the point chosen for our cam]? on the north bank of the Canadian. 
As there is little or no timber found along the immediate banks of that river as 
far up as we then were, we pitched our tents about one mile from the river, 
and near a small fresh-water tributary whose valley was abundantly supplied 
with wood. If any prowling bands or war parties belonging to either of the 
tribes with which we were at war were moving across the Canadian in either 
direction, it was more than probable that their crossing Avould be made at 
some point above us, and not more than ten or fifteen miles distant. The sea- 
son was rather far advanced to expect any of these parties to be absent from 
the village, but the trail of the war party, discovered by our Indian guides 
just before the expedition reached Camp Supj)ly, was not forgotten, and the 
heavy storm of the past few days would be apt to drive them away from the 
settlements and hasten their return to their village. We had every reason to 
believe that the latter was located somewhere south of the CanadiMU. After 
discussing the mxtter with Little Beavt,r and Hard Rope, and listening to the 
suggestions of California Joe and his confreres, I decided to start a strong 
force up the valley of the Canadian at daybreak the following morning, to ex- 
amine the banks and discover, if possible, if Indians had been in the vicinity 
since the snow had fallen. 1 hree full troops of cavalry under Major Joel IL 
Elliot, 7tli Cavalry, were ordered to move without wagons or oti'o imjyedimicnio, 
each trooper to carry one hundred rounds of ammunition, one day's rations and 
forage. Their instructions were to proceed up the north bank of the Canadian 
a distance of fifteen miles. If any trail of Indians was discovered, pursuit was to 
be taken up at once, at the same time sending information of the fact back 
to the main command, indicating the number and character of the Indians as 
determined by their trail, and particularly the direction in which they were 
moving, in order that the main body of the troops mightendeavor if possible to 
intei'cept the Indians, or at least strike the trail by a shorter route than by follow- 
ing tiie first detachment. A few of our Indian trailers were designated to accom- 
pany the party, as well as some of the white scouts. The latter were to be em- 
jdoyed in carrying despatches back to the main command, should anytliing be 
discovered of sufficient importance to be reported. In the mean time I informed 
Major Elliot that as soon as it was fairly daylight I would commence crossing 
the main command over the Canadian — an operation wliich could not be per- 
formed hastily, as the banks were aliTiost overflowing, the current being very 
rapid and the watei filled with floating snow and ice. After making the cross- 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS, 151 

ing I would, in the absence of any reports from him, march up the bUiffs forming 
Antelope Hills and strike nearly due south, aiming to encamp that night on 
some one of the small streams forming the headwaters of the Washita river, 
where avC would again unite the two portions of the command and continue 
our march to the south. 

Major Elliot was a very zealous oflScer, and daylight found him and his 
command on the march in the execution of the duty to which they had been as- 
signed. Those of us who remained behind were soon busily occupied in mak- 
iiig preparations to eftect a crossing of the Canadian. California Joe had been 
engaged since early dawn searching for a ford which would be practicable for 
our wagons ; the troopers and horses could cross almost anywhere. A safe ford- 
ing place barelj^ practicable was soon reported, and tlie cavalry and wagon 
ti'ain began moving over. It was a tedious process; sometimes the treacher- 
ous quicksand would yield beneath the heavily laden wagons, and double the 
usual number of mules would be required to extricate the load. In less than 
three hours the last wagon and the rear guard of the cavalry had made a suc- 
cessful crossing. Looming up in our front like towering battlements were 
the Antelope Hills. These prominent landmarks, which can be seen from 
a distance of over twenty miles in all directions, are situated near the south 
bank of the Canadian, and at 100 deg. W. longitude. The Antelope Hills form a 
group of five separate hillocks, and are sometimes called Boundary Mounts. 
They vary in height above the average level of the plains between one hun- 
dreu and fifty and three hundred feet. Two of the hills are conical and the 
others oblong; they are composed of porous sandstone, and are crowned with 
white and regular terraces about six yards in depth. From the summit of 
these terraces one enjoys a most commanding view. On the left is to be seen 
the red bed of the Canadian, whose tortuous windings, coming from the south- 
west, direct their course for a while northwards, and finally disappear in a dis- 
tant easterly direction. The horizon is but an immense circle of snowy white- 
ness, of which the centre is the point of observation. Here and there a few 
acclivities rise above the plains, divided by rows of stunted trees, indicating a 
ravine, or more frequently a humble brook such as that on whose banks we 
camped the night previous to crossing the Canadian. It never occurred to 
any of us, when folding our tents that bleak winter morning on the bank of 
the Canadian, that there were those among our number who had bidden a last 
and final adieu to the friendly shelter of their canvas-covered homes; that 
for some of us, some who could but sndly be spared, the last reveille had 
sounded, and that when sleep again closed their eyes it would be that sleep from 
which there is no awakening. But I am anticipating. 

One by one the huge army wagons, with their immense white covers, began 
the long ascent which was necessary to be overcome before attaining the level 
of the plains. As fast as they reached the high ground the leading Avagons 
were halted and parked to await the arrival of the last to cross the river. In 
the mean time the c.av.-ilry had closed ujj and dismounted, except the rear 
guard, which Avas just then to be seen approaching from the river, indicating 
that " everything was closed up." I was about to direct the chief bugler to. 
sound " To horse," when far in the distance, on the white sui'face of the snow, I 
descried a horseman approaching us as rapidly as his tired steed could carry 
him. The direction was that in wiiich Elliot's command was supposed to be, 
and the horseman approaching could be none other than a messenger from. 
Elliot. What tidings would he bring? was my first thought. Perhaps Elliot 



153 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

could not find a ford by which to cross the Canadian, and simply desired in- 
structions as to what liis course should be. Perhaps he has discovered an In- 
dian trail — a fresli one; but it must be fresh if one at all, as the snow is 
scarcely three days old. If a trail has been discovered, then woe unto the luck- 
less Indians whose footprints are discoverable in the snow ; for so long as that 
remains and the endurance of men and horses holds out, just so long will 
Ave follow that trail, until the pursuer and pursued are brought face to face, or 
the one or the other succumbs to the fatigues and exhaustion of the race. 
These and a host of kindred thoughts flashed in rapid succession through my 
mind as soon as I had discovered tiie distant approach of the scout, for a scout 
I knew it must be. As yet none of the command had observed his coming, 
not being on as high ground as where I stood. By means of my field glass I 
was able to make out the familiar form of " Corbin," one of the scouts. Aftei 
due waiting, when minutes seemed like hours, the scout galloped up to 
where I was waiting, and in a few hurried, almost breathless words, in- 
formed me that Elliot's command, after moving up the north bank of the 
Canadian about twelve miles, had discovered the trail of an Indian war 
party numbering upwards of one hundred and fifty strong; that the trail was 
not twenty-four hours old, and the party had crossed the Canadian and taken a 
course a little east of south. Elliot had crossed his command, and at once 
taken up the pursuit as rapidly as his horses could travel. Here was news, and 
of a desirable chai'acter. I asked the scout if he could overtake Elliot if fur- 
nished with a fresh horse. He thought he could. A horse was at once sup- 
plied him, and he was told to rejoin Elliot as soon as jjossible, with instructions 
to continue the pursuit with all possible vigor, and I would move with the main 
command in such direction as to strike his trail about dark. If the Indians 
changed their general direction, he was to inform me of the fact; and if I could 
not overtake him by eight o'clock that night, Elliot was to halt his command 
and await my arrival, when the combined force would move as circumstances 
might determine. My resolution was formed in a moment, and as quickly put 
in train of execution. The bugle summoned all the ofiicers to report at once. 
There was no tardiness on their jDart, for while they had not heard the report 
brought in by the scout, they had witnessed his unexpected arrival and his 
equally sadden departure — circumstances which told them plainer than mere 
words that something unusual was in the air. The moment they were all as- 
sembled about me I acquainted them with the intelligence received from El- 
liot, and at the same time informed them that we would at once set out to 
join in the pursuit — a pursuit which could and would only end when we 
overtook our enemies. And in order that we should not be trammelled in 
our movements, it was my intention then and there to abandon our train of 
wagons, taking with us only such supplies as we could carry on our persons 
and strapijcd to our saddles. The train would be left under the protection of 
about eighty men detailed from the difterent troops, and under command of 
one officer, to whom orders would be given to follow us with the train as 
rapi<lly as the character of our route would permit. Each trooper was to 
carry with him one hundred rounds of ammunition, a small amount of coffee 
and hard bread, and on his saddle an equally small allowance of forage for 
his horse. Tents and extra blankets were to be left with tlie wagons. We 
were to move in light marching order as far as this was practicable. Tiien 
taking out my watch, the officers were notified that in twenty minutes from 
that time " the advance " would be sounded and the march in pursuit begun — 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 153 

the intevveni'ng time to be devoted to carrying out the instructions just given. 
In 11 moment every man and oflicer in the command was vigorously at w^ork 
preparing to set out for a rougli ride, the extent or result of which no one 
could foresee. Wagons were en)ptied, mess chests called upon to contribute 
from their stores, ammunition chests opened and their contents distributed to 
the troopers. The most inferior of the horses were selected to fill up the detail 
of eighty cavalry which was to remain and escort the train ; an extra amount 
of clothing Avas donned by some who realized that when the bitter, freezing 
hours of niglit came we Avould not have the comforts of tents and camp-fire to 
sustain us. If we had looked with pi'oper dread upon the discomforts of the 
past three days, the severity of the storm, the deep snow, and our limited fa- 
cilities for withstanding the inclemencies of midwinter even when provided 
with shelter, food, and fire, what was the prospect now opened before us when, 
we proposed to relinquish even the few comforts we had at command, and 
start out on a mission not only full of danger, but where food would be very 
limited, and then only of the plainest kind? Shelterless we should be in the 
midst of the wide, oj)en plains, where the winds blow with greater force, and 
owing to our proximity to the Indians even fii-es would be too costly an aid 
to our comfort to be allowed. Yet these thoughts scarcely found a place in 
the minds of any members of the command. All felt that a great opportunity 
was before us, and to improve it only required determination and firmness on 
our part. How thoroughly and manfully every demand of this kind was re- 
sponded to by my command, I will endeavor to relate in the next chapter. 



XV. 



BEFORE pi'oceeiling to narrate the incidents of the pursuit which led us to 
tlie battle of the Washita, I will refer to the completion of our hasty 
preparations to detach ourselves from the encumbrance of our immense wagou 
train. In the last chapter it has been seen that the train was to be left be- 
hind under the protection of an officer and eighty cavalrymen, Avith orders to 
push after us, following our trail in the snow as rapidly as the teams could 
move. "Where or when it would again join us no one could foretell; in all 
probabilitj-, however, not until the pursuit had terminated and we had met 
and vanquished our savage foes, or had been defeated by them. Under 
existing orders the guard for the protection of our train was each day under 
the command of the officer of the day, the tour of duty of the latter continuing 
twenty-four hours, beginning in the morning. On that day the duties of offi- 
cer of the day fell in regular routine upon Captain Louis McLane Hamilton, 
Seventh Cavalry, a grandson of Alexander Hamilton. Of course this detail 
would require him to remain behind with the train while his squadron, one of 
the finest in the command, would move forward to battle under charge of an- 
other. To a soldier of Hamilton's pride and ambition, to be left behind in this 
inglorious manner was galling in the extreme. He foresaw the situation at 
once, and the moment that intelligence of the proposed movement reached 
liim he came galloping up from the rear in search of me. I was busily en- 
gaged at the time superintending the hurried arrangements for commencing 
tlie pursuit. Coming up to me, with a countenance depicting the most 
earnest anxiety, his first words were to frame an inquiry as to whether I in- 
tended him to remain behind. Fully appreciating his anxious desire to share 
with his comrades the perils of the approacliing conflict, and j-et unable to 
substitute, without injustice, another officer for him unless with the consent of 
the former, I could not give him the encouragement he desired. The mo- 
ment that the plans for pursuit were being formed, I remembered that the 
accidents of service were to deprive the pursuing column of the presence and 
aid of one whoso assistance in such an emergency could always be confidently 
relied upon. Some of his brotlier officers had bethought themselves of the 
same, and at once came to me with the remark that " we ought to have Ham- 
ilton with us." My only i^ply was that wliile my desires were all one way 
my duty prescribed that Hamilton should remain with tlie guard and train, 
it being iiis dettiil, and it also being necessary that some officer should remain 
upon this important duty. I answered his repeated request, that while I de- 
sired him in command of his squadron, particularly thoii of all times, I was 
powerless to have it so without being unjust to some other officer. Wliile 
forced to admit this to be true, he added, " It seems hard tliat I must re- 
main." Finally I said to him that all I could do would be to allow him to get 
some other officer to willingly take his place with the train, adding tliat some 
officer might be found in the command who, from indisposition or other causes, 
did not feel able to undertake a rapid and tiresome pursuit such as we would 
probably have, and under such circumstances I would gladly order the change. 
He at once departed in search of some one wlio would assume his duties with 
the train and leave him free to resume his post at the head of his splendid 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 155 

eqnaclron — that squadron in whose ovgauization and equipment he had dis- 
jjlayed such energy and fovelliought, and whose superior excellency and effi- 
ciency long bore the impress of his liand. I am tlius minute in detailing these 
circumstances allecting the transfer of Captain Hamilton from one duty to an- 
other, as the sad sequel will show how intimately connected the destiny of 
one of the parties was with the slight matter of this change. Hamilton had 
been absent but a few minutes when he returned overflowing with joy, and 
remarked tliat an oflicer had been found who consented to take his place, end- 
ing with the question, ♦' Shall I join my squadron? " To this I gladly assented, 
and he gallo^jed to another i)art of the field, Avhere his men were, to hasten 
and superintend their preparations for the coming struggle. The officer who 
had consented to take Hamilton's place with the train had that day been af- 
fected with partial snow-blindness, and felt himself disqualified and unable to 
join in the pursuit, and it was exceedingly proper for him under the circum- 
stances to agree to the proposed change. 

Dm-ing all this time Elliot with his three companies of calvary was folloAv- 
ing hard and fast upon the trail left by the Indians in the deep snow. By 
being informed, as we were, of the direction in which the trail was leading, 
and that direction being favorable to our position, the main command by mov- 
ing due soutli would strike the trail of the Indians, and of Elliot also, at some 
point not far in rear perhajis of Elliot's jmrty. Everything being in readiness 
to set out at the expiration of the allotted twenty minutes, " the advance " was 
sounded and the pursuit on our part began. Oar route carried us across the 
broad, open plains, the snow over a foot in dejjth, with surftice of course un- 
broken. This rendered it exceedingly fatiguing to the horses moving in the 
advance, and changes were frequently rendered necessary. The weather, 
which during the past few days had been so bitterly cold, moderated on that 
day sufficiently to melt the upper surface of tlie snow. After leaving the 
wagon train, we continued our march rapidly during the remaining hours of 
the forenoon and until the middle of the afternoon. Still no tidings from EI- 
liot's ]3arty nor any sign of a trail. No halt was made during the day either 
for rest or refreshment. Toward evening we began to feel anxious concern- 
ing Elliot's detachment. Could it be that the Indians had discovered that 
they were pursued, and had broken u}} into smaller parties or changed the di- 
rection of their trail? If so, could Elliot's messengers reach us in time to make 
the information valuable to us? We had hurried along, our interest inci'cas- 
ing with each mile passed over, until the sun was not more than one hour 
high above the western horizon ; and still, sti'ain oui-«yes as we would, and scan 
the white surface of the jjlains in every direction in our front, the snow seemed 
unbroken and undisturbed as far as the eye could reach. Our scouts and 
Indian guides were kept far out in front and on the jjroper flank, to discover, 
if possible, the trail. At last one of the scouts gave the signal that tlie trail 
had been discovered, and ia a few moments the command had reached it, and 
Ave were now moving Avith lighter and less anxious hearts. After studying 
tlie trail our Osage Avarriors informed us that the Indians Avhose trail Ave Avere 
jjursning Avere undoubtedly a Avar party, and had certainly passed Avhere 
Ave then Avere during the forenoon. This Avas encouraging, and a free rein 
Av;is given to our horses as Ave hastened along through the snoAV. The object 
now Av:is to overtake as soon as practicaljle the party of Elliot, Avhich from the 
heavy trail Ave could see was in advance of us. The almost level and un- 
broken character of the country enabled us to see for miles in all directions, 



156 LIFE OX TilE PLAINS. 

aad ill this way we knew that Elliot must be many miles ahearl of our party. 
At the same time I could see that we were gradually descending into a valley, 
probably of some stream, and far in advance appeared the dim outline of tim- 
ber, sucli as usually fringes the banks of many of the Western streams. Select- 
ing a few well-mounted troopers and some of the scouts, I directed tlicm to 
set out at a moderate gallop to overtake Elliot, with orders to the latter to halt 
at the first favorable point where wood and water could be obtained, and await 
our arrival, informing him at the same time that after allowing the men an hour 
to prepare a cup of coffee and to feed and rest their horses, it was my intention 
to continue the pursuit during the night — a measure to which I felt urged by 
the slight thawing of the snow that day, which might result in our failure if 
we permitted the Indians to elude us until tlie snow had disappeared. Satis- 
fied now that we were on the right course, our anxiety lessened, but our inter- 
est increased. Soon after dark we reached the valley whose timbered surface 
we had cauglit faint glimpses of hours before. Down this valley and tlirougl^ 
this spirse timber the trail led us. Hour after hour we struggled on, hoping 
to overtake the three troops in advance, for hunger, unappeased since before 
daylight, began to assert its demands in the strongest terms. Our faithful 
horses were likewise in great need of both food and water, as well as rest, as 
ueitlier had been offered them since four o'clock in the morning. So far had 
Elliot pusheil his pursuit that our scouts were a long time in reaching him, 
and it was nine o'clock at night when the main command arrived at the point 
where he and his three troops Avere found halted. A stream of good water 
witli comparatively deep banks ran near by, while the valley at this point was 
quite heavily timbered. 

To enable the men to prepare a cup of coftee, and at the same time give no 
evidence of our presence to the Indians, who, for all we knew, might be not 
far from us, advantage was tjiken of the deep banks of the creek, and by build- 
ing small fires down under the edge of the bank, they were prevented from 
being seen, except at a small distance. At the same time the horses were re- 
lieved of their saddles and unbitted, and a good feed of oats distributed to 
each. Officers and men were glad to partake of the same quality of simple 
fare that night, consisting only of a most welcome and refreshing cup of good 
strong coffee and a handful of army crackers — "hard tack." By waiting an 
hour we not only gained by rest and refresliment, but the light of the moon 
would then probably be suflicieut to guide us on our night ride. When the 
hour had nearly expired, we began our preparations in the most quiet manner 
to resume the pursuit. No bugle calls were permitted, as in this peculiar coun- 
try sound travels a long distance, and we knew not but that our wily foes were 
located near by. Before starting I conferred with our Indian allies, all of 
who)ii were firmly convinced that our enemy's village was probably not far 
away, and most likely was in tlie valley in wliich we then were, as the trail 
for some miles had led us down the stream on whose banks we lialted. " Lit- 
tle Beaver," who acted as spokesman for the Osages, seemed confident that we 
could overtake and surprise the Indians we had been pursuing, and most prob- 
ably follow them direct to their village ; but, much to my surprise. Little Bea- 
ver strongly advised that we delay further pursuit until dayliglit, remaining 
concealed in the timber as we were at the time. When asked for his reasons 
for favoring such a course, he could give none of a satisfactory nature. I then 
concluded that his disinclination to continue pursuit that night arose from the 
natural reluctance, shared by all Indians, to attack an unseen foe, whether con- 



LIFE OX THE PLAIXS. 167 

cealed by darkness or other natural or artificial means of shelter. Indiana 
rarely attack between the hours of dark and daylight, althoug:h their stealthy 
movements through the country, either in search of an enemy or when attempt- 
ing to elude them, are often executed under cover of night. 

As soon as each troop was in readiness to resume the pursuit, the troop 
commander reiJoi'ted the fact at headquarters. Ten o'clock came and found 
us in our saddles. Silently the command stretched out its long length as the 
troopers filed off four abreast. First came two of our Osage scouts on foot; 
these were to follow the trail and lead the command; they were our guides, 
and the panther, creeping upon its prey, could not have advanced more cau- 
tiously or quietly than did these friendly Indians, as they seemed to glide 
rather than walk over the snow-clad surfjxce. To prevent the possibility of the 
command coming precipitately upon our enemies, the two scouts were directed 
to keep three or four hundred yards in advance of all others ; then came, in sin- 
gle file, the remainder of our Osage guides and the white scouts — among the 
rest California Joe. With these I rode, that I might be as near the advance 
guard as i^ossible. The cavalry followed in rear, at the distance of a quarter or 
half a mile; this precaution was necessary, from the fact that the snow, which 
had thaAved slightly during the day, was then freezing, forming a crust which, 
broken by the tread of so many hundreds of feet, produced a noise capable of 
being heard at a long distance. Orders were given prohibiting even a word 
being uttered above a whisper. No one was permitted to strike a match or 
light a pipe — the latter a great dejirivation to the soldier. In this silent man- 
ner we rode mile after mile. Occasionally an officer Avould ride by my side and 
whisper some inquiry or suggestion, but a-ide from this our march was unbro- 
ken by sound or deed. At last we discovered that our two guides in fi-ont had 
halted, and were awaiting my arrival. Word was quietly sent to halt the col- 
umn until inquiry in front could be made. Upon coming up with the two 
Osages we were furnished an example of the wonderful and peculiar powers 
of the Indian. One of them could speak broken English, and in answer to my 
question as to "What is the matter?" he replied, " Me don't know, but me 
smell fire." By this time several of the officers had quietly ridden up, and upon 
being informed of the Osage's remark, each endeavored, by sniffing the air, to 
verify or disprove the report. All united in saying that our guide was mis- 
taken. Soaiie said he was jjrobably frightened, but we were unable to shake 
the confidence of the Osage warrior in his first opinion. I then directed him 
and his companion to advance even more cautiously than before, and the col- 
umn, keejjing up the interval, resumed its march. After proceeding about 
half a mile, perhaps further, again our guides halted, and upon coming up with 
them I was greeted with the remark, uttered in a whisper, "Me told you so; " 
and sure enough, looking in the direction indicated, were to be seen the em- 
bers of a wasted fire, scarcely a handful, yet enough to prove that our guide 
was right, and to cause us to feel the greater confidence in him. The discov- 
ery of these few coals of fire produced almost breathless excitement. The dis- 
tance from where we stood was from seventy-five to a hundred yards, not in 
tlie line of our march, but directly to our left, in the edge of the timber. We 
knew at once that none but Indians, and they hostile, had built that fire. 
Where were they at that moment? Perhaps sleeping in the vicinity of the fire. 

It was almost certain to our minds that the Indians we had been pursuing 
were the builders of the fire. Were they still there and asleep? We were too 
near already to attempt to withdraw undiscovered. Our only course was to de- 



158 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

tennine the facts at once, and be prepared for the worst. I called for a few 
volunteers to quietlj' aj^proach the lire and discover whether there were Ind uns 
in the vicinity; if not, to gather such information as was obtainable, as to tkieir 
numbers and departure. All the Osages and a few of the scouts quickly dis- 
Diounted, and with rifles in readiness and fingers on the triggers silently made 
their wiiy to the nearest point of the timber, Little Bearer and Hard Rope 
Ivsading the way. After they liad disappeared in the timber they still had to 
pass over more than half the distance before reaching the fire. These ino- 
ments seemed like hours, and those of us who were left sitting on our horses, 
in the open moonlight, and within easy range from the spot where the fire was 
located, felt anything but comfortable during this suspense. If Indians, as 
then seemed highly probable, were sleeping around the fire, our scouts would 
arouse them and we would be in fair way to be i)icked off without being in a 
position to defend ourselves. The matter was soon determined. Our scouts 
soon arrived at the fire, and discovered it to be deserted. Again did the skill 
and knowledge of our Indian allies come in play. Had they not been with us 
we should undoubtedly have assumed that the Indians who had had occasion to 
build the fire and those we were pursuing constituted one party. From ex- 
amining the fire and observing the great number of pony tracks in the show, 
the Osages arrived at a ditt'erent conclusion, and were convinced that we were 
tlien on the ground used by the Indians for grazing their herds of ponies. The 
fire had been kindled by the Intlian boys, who attend to the herding, to AV.arm 
themselves b)', and in all probability we were tiien within two or three miles 
of the village. I will not endeavor to describe the renewed hope and excite- 
ment that sprung up. Again we set out, this time more cautiously if possible 
than before, the command and scouts moving at a greater distance in rear. 

In order to judge of the situation more correctly, I this time accompanied 
the two Osages. Silently we advanced, I mounted, they on foot, keeping at 
the head of my horse. Upon nearing the crest of each hill, as is invariably 
the Indian custom, one of the guides would hasten a few steps in advance and 
peer cautiously over the hill. Accustomed to this, I was not struck by observing 
it until once, when the same one who discovered the fire advanced cautiously 
to the crest and looked carefullj'^ into the valley bej'ond. I saw him place 
his hand above his ej'es as if looking intently at some object, then crouch 
down and come creeping back to where I waited for him. *' What is it?" I 
inquired as soon as he reached my horse's side. " Heaps Injuns down there," 
pointing in the direction from which he had just come. Quickly dismounting 
and giving the reins to the other guide, I accompanied the Osage to the crest, 
both of us crouching low so as not to be seen in the moonlight against the 
horizon. Looking in the direction indicated, I could indistinctl}' recognize tlie 
presence of a large body of animals of some kind in the vallej' below, and at 
a distance which then seemed not iiiore than half a mile. I looked at them 
long anil anxiously, the guide uttering not a word, but was unable to discover 
anytliing in their appearance different from what might be presented by a 
herd of buffalo under similar circumstances. Turning to the Osage, I inijuired 
in a low tone why he thought there were Indians there. "Me heard dog 
bark," was the satisfactory reply. Indians are noted for tlie large numl)er of 
dogs always found in their villages, but never accomi^anying their war parties. 
I waited quietly to be convinced; I was assured, but wanted to be doubly so. 
I was rewarded in a moment by hearing the barking of a dog in the heavy 
timber oft" to the right of the herd, and soon after I hoard the tinkling of a 



LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 159 

email bell; this convinced me tluit it was really the Indian herd I then saw, 
the bell being one worn around the neck of some pony wlio was probably the 
leader of the herd. I turned to retrace my steps when another sound wa3 
borne to my ear through the cold, clear atmosphere of the valley — it was the 
distant cry of an infant; and savages though they were, and justly outlawed 
by the number and atrocity of their recent murders and depredations on the 
hel2>less settlers of the frontier, I could not but regret that in a war such as 
we were forced to engage in, tiie mode and circumstances of battle would 
possibl}' prevent discrimination. 

Leaving the two Osages to keep a careful lookout, I hastened back until I 
met the main party of the scouts and Osages. They were halted and a mes- 
sage sent back to halt the cavalry, enjoining complete silence, and directing 
every officer to ride to the point we then occujjied. The hour was then jDast 
midnight. Soon they came, and after dismounting and collecting in a little 
circle, I informed them of what I had seen and heard ; and in order that they 
might individually learn as much as possible of the character of the ground 
and the location of the village, I proposed that all should remove their sabres, 
that their clanking might make no noise, and proceed gently to the crest 
and there obtain a view of the valley beyond. This was done ; not a word 
wtvs spoken iintil we crouched together and cast our ej'es in the direction of 
the herd and village. In whispers I brielly jiointed out everj-thing that was 
to be seen, then motioned all to return to where we had left our sabres ; then, 
standing in a group upon the ground or crust of snow, the j)lan of the attack 
was explained to all and each assigned his part. The general plan was to 
employ the hours between then and daylight to completely surround the vil- 
lage, and, at daybreak, or as soon as it was barely light enough for the purpose, 
to attack the Indians from all sides. The command, numbering, as has been 
stated, about eight hundred mounted men, was divided into four nearly equal 
detachments. Two of them set out at once, as they had each to make a circuit- 
ous march of several miles in order to arrive at the points assigned them from 
which to make their attack. The third detachment moved to its position 
about an hour befjre day, and until tliat time remained with the main or fourth 
column. This last, whose movements I accompanied, was to make the attack 
from the point from Avhich we had first discovered the herd and village. 
Major Elliot commanded the column embracing G, H, and M troops, Seventh 
Cavahy, Avhich moved around from our left to a position almost in rear of the 
village; while Colonel Thompson commanded the one consisting of B and F 
troops, which moved in a corresponding manner from our right to a position 
which was to connect with that of Major Elliot. Colonel Myers commanded 
tlie third column, composed of E and I troops, which w;xs to take jjosition in 
the valley and timber a little less than a mile to my right. By this disposition 
it was hoped to prevent the escape of every inmate of the village. That por- 
tion of the command which I proposed to accompany consisted of A, C, D, 
and K troops, Seventh Cavalry, the Osages and scouts, and Colonel Cook with 
his forty sharpshooters. Captain Hamilton commanded one of the squad- 
rons, Colonel West the other. After the first two columns had departed for 
their posts — it was still four hours before the hour of attack — the men of the 
other two columns were permitted to dismount, but much intense suffei'ing was 
unavoidably sustained. The night grew extremely cold towards morning; 
no fires of coui-se could be permitted, and the men were even ordered to desist 
from stamping their feet and walking back and forth to keep warm, as the 



160 LIFE OX THE TLAIXS. 

crushing of the snow beneath produced so much noise that it might give the 
alarm to our wily enemies. 

During all these long weary hours of this terribly cold and comfortless 
night each man sat, stood, or lay on the snow by his horse, holding to the 
rein of the hitter. The officers, buttoning their huge overcoats closely about 
them, collected in knots of four or five, and, seated or recliiiing upon the snow's 
liard crust, discussed the probabilities of the coming battle — for battle we 
knew it would be, and we could not hope to conquer or kill the warriors of an 
entire village without suflering in return more or less injury. Some, wrai>ping 
tlieir capes about their hetuls, spread themselves at full length upon the snow 
and were apparently soon wrapt in deap slumber. After being satisfied that 
all necessary arrangements were made for the attack, I imitated the example 
of some of my comrades, and gathering the cavalry cape of my greatcoat 
about my head lay down and slept soundly for perhaps an hour. At the end 
of that time I awoke, and on consulting my watch found there remained 
nearly two hours before we would move to the attack. Walking about among 
the horses and troopers, I found the latter generally huddled at the f(>ct of the 
former in squads of three and four, in the endeavor to keep warm. Occasion- 
ally I would find a small group engaged in convei'sation, the muttered tones 
and voices strangely reminding me of tliose heard in the death-chamber. The 
officers had disposed of themselves in similar but various ways; here at one 
place were several stretclied out together ujwn the snow, the body of one be- 
ing used by the otliers as a pillow. Nearly all were silent; conversation had 
ceased, and those who were ^^revented bj'the severe cold from obtaining sleep 
were no doubt full}"^ occujjied in their minds with tlioughts upon the morrow 
and the fate that might be in store for them. Seeing a small group collected 
under the low branches of a tree which stood a little distance from the gi-ound 
occupied by the troops, I made my way there to find the Osage warriors with 
tiieir chiefs Little Beaver and Hard Rope. They were wraj^ped up in their 
blankets sitting in a circle, and had evidently made no efibrt to sleep during 
the night. It was plain to be seen that they regarded the occasion as a mo- 
mentous one, and that the coming battle had been the sole sul:ject of their con- 
ference. What the views expressed by them were I did not learn until after 
the engagement was fought, when they told me what ideas they had enter- 
tained regarding the manner in whicli the white men would probably conduct 
and terminate the struggle next day. After the success of the day was de- 
cided, the Osages told me that, with the sus2)icion so natural and pe(;uliar to 
the Indian nature, they had, in discussing tlie proposed attack upon the Indian 
village, concluded that we would be outnumbered by the occupants of tiie vil- 
lage, who of course would fight with the utmost desperation in defence of their 
lives and lodges, and to i^revent a complete defeat of our forces or to secure a 
drawn battle, we might be induced to engage in a parley with the hostile 
tribe, and on coming to an agreement we would i^robably, to save ourselves, 
oiler to yield up our Osage allies as a compromise measure between our ene- 
mies and ourselves. They also mistrusted the ability of tlie whites to make a 
successful attack upon a hostile village, loaited — as this one was knoAvn to be — 
in heavy tinibei", and aided by the natural banks of the stream. Disaster 
seemed certain in the minds of the Osages to follow us, if we attacked a foi'ce 
of unknown strength and numbers; and the question with them was to .secure 
such a position in the attack as to be able promptly to d(!tect any move disad- 
vantageous to them. With this purpose they came to the conclusion that the 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 101 

Btandard-bearer was a very important personage, and neither lie nor bis 
standard Avould be carried into danger or exposed to the bullets of the enemy. 
They determined therefore to take their station immediately behind my stand- 
ard-bearer Avhen the lines became formed for attack, to follow him during the 
action, and thus be able to watch our movements, and if we were successful 
over our foes to aid us; if the battle should go against us, then they, being in a 
safe position, could take advantage of circumstances and save themselves as 
best they might. 

Turning from our Osage friends, who were, unknown to us, entertaining 
such doubtful opinions as to our fidelity to them, I joined another group near 
b}', consisting of most of the white scouts. Here were California Joe and sevei'al 
of his companions. One of the latter deserves a passing notice. He was a low, 
heavy-set Mexican, with features resembling somewhat those of the Ethiopian — 
thick lips, depressed nose, and low forehead. He was quite a young man, 
j^robablj' not more than twenty-five years of age, but had passed the greater 
portion of his life with the Indians, had adopted their habits of life and modes 
of dress, and had married among them. Familiar with the language of the 
Cheyennes and other neighboring tribes, he was invaluable both as a scout 
and interiDreter. His real name was Komero, but some of the officers of the 
command, with whom he was a sort of favorite, had dubbed him Romeo, and 
by this name he was always known, a sobriquet to which he responded as 
readily as if he had been christened under it; never protesting, like the ori- 
ginal Romeo, 

Tut, I have lost myself; I am not here; 

This is not Romeo, he's some other Avhere. 

The scouts, like nearly all the other members of the command, had been 
interchanging opinions as to the result of the movements of the following day. 
Not sharing the mistrust and suspicion of the Osage guides, yet the present 
experience was in many respects new to them, and to some the issue seemed 
at least shrouded in uncertainty. Addressing the group, I began the conversa- 
tion with the question as to what they thought of the prospect of our having 
a fight. " Fight ! " responded California Joe ; " I havn't nary doubt concernin' 
that part uv the business; what I've been tryin' to get through my topknot all 
nigiit is whether we'll run aginst more than we bargain fur." " Then you do 
not think the Indians will run away, Joe?" "Run away! How in creation 
can Injuns or anybody else I'un away when we'll have 'em clean surrounded 
afore daylight? " "Well, sujjpose then tliat we succeed in surrounding the 
village, do you think we can hold our own against the Indians?" "That's 
the very pint that's been botlierin' me ever since we planted ourselves doAvn 
here, and the only conclusion I kin come at is that it's purty apt to be one 
thing or t'other; if we pump these Injuns at daylight, we're either goin' to 
make a spoon or spile a horn, an' that's my candid judgment, sure. One thing's 
certain, ef them Injuns doesn't bar anything uv us till we open on 'em at day- 
light, they'll be the most powerful 'stonished redskins that's been in these parts 
lately — they will, sure. An' ef we git the bulge on 'em, and keep puttin' it to 
'em sort a lively like, we'll sweep the plattei* — thar won't be nary trick left 
for 'em. As the deal stands now, we hold the keerds and are holdin' over 'em ; 
they've got to straddle our blind or throw up their hands. Howsomever, 
thar's a mighty sight in the draw." 

California Joe continued in this strain, and, by a prolific use of terms con- 
nected with other transactions besides fighting Indians, did not fail to impress 



163 LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

his hearers that his opinion in substance was that our attack in the morning 
was to result in overwhelming success to us, or that we would be utterly 
routed and dispersed — that there would be no di*awn battle. 

The night passed in quiet. I anxiously watched the opening signs of 
dawn in order to put the column in motion. We were only a few hundred 
yards from the point from which we were to attack. The moon disappeared 
about two hours before dawn, and left us enshrouded in thick and utter dark- 
uess, making the time seem to drag even slower than before. 

At last faint signs of approaching day were visible, and I proceeded to col- 
lect the officers, awakening those who slept. We were standing in a group 
near the head of the column, when suddenly our attention was attracted by a 
remarkable sight, and for a time we felt that the Indians had discovered our 
presence. Directly beyond the crest of the hill which separated us from the 
village, and in a line with the supposed location of the latter, we saw I'ising 
slowly but perceptibly, as we thought, up from the village, and appearing in 
bold relief against the dark sky as a background, something which we could 
only compare to a signal rocket, except that its motion w:is slow and regular. 
All eyes were turned to it in blank astonishment, and but one idea seemed to 
be entertained, and that was that one or both of the two attacking columns 
under Elliot or Thompson had encountered a portion of the village, and this 
that we saw was the signal to other portions of the band near at hand. Slow- 
ly and majestically it continued to rise above the crest of the hill, first appear- 
ing as a small brilliant flaming globe of bright golden hue. As it ascended 
still higher it seemed to increase in size, to move more slowlj^ while its colors 
rapidl}^ changed from one to the other, exhibiting in turn the most beautiful 
combinations of prismatic tints. There seemed to be not the shadow of a 
doubt that we were discovered. The strange apparition in the heavens main- 
tained its steady course upward. One anxious spectator, observing it appar- 
ently at a standstill, exclaimed, "How long it hangs fire! why don't it ex- 
plode?" still keeping the idea of a signal rocket in mind. It had risen per- 
■haps to the height of half a degree above the horizon as observed from our 
position, when, lo! the mystery was dispelled. Rising above the mystify- 
ing influences of the atmosphere, that which had ajipeared so suddenly before 
us, and excited our greatest apprehensions, developed into the brightest and 
most beaiitiful of morning stars. Often since that memorable morning have 
I heard officers remind each other of the strange appearance Avhicli iiad so 
excited our anxiety and alarm. In less perilous moments we probably would 
have regarded it as a beautiful phenomenon of nature, of which so many are 
to be witnessed through the pure atmosphere of the plains. 

All were ordered to get ready to advance ; not a word to oflicer or men 
was spoken above undertone. It began gi'owing lighter in the east, and we 
moved forward toward the crest of the hill. Up to this time two of the offi- 
cers and one of the Osages had remained on the hill overlooking the valley 
beyond, so as to detect any attempt at a movement on the j^art of the occu- 
pants of the village below. These now rejoined the troops. Colonel West's 
squadron was formed in line on the right, Captain Hamilton's squadron in 
line on the left, while Colonel Cook with his forty sharpshooters was formed 
in advance of the left, dismounted. Although the early morning air was freez- 
ingly cold, the men were directed to remove their overcoats and haversacks, 
so as to render them free in their movements. Before advancing beyond the 
crest of the hill, strict orders wei*e issued prohibiting the firing of a single shot 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 163 

antil the signal to attack should be made. The otlier three detachments had 
been informed before setting out tliat the main column would attack promptly 
at daj-light, without waiting to ascertain whether they were in position or not. 
In fact it would be impracticable to communicate with either of the first two 
until the atUick began. The plan was for each party to approach as closely 
to the village as possible without being discovered, and there await the ap- 
proacli of daylight. The regimental band was to move with my detachment, 
and it was understood that the band should strike up the instant the attack 
opened. Colonel Myers, commanding the third part}'', was also directed to 
move one-half his detachment dismounted. In this order we began to descend 
the slope leading down to the village. The distance to the timber in the val- 
ley proved greater than it had ap2)eared to the eye in the darkness of tiie 
night. We soon reached tlie outskirts of the herd of ponies. The latter 
seemed to recognize us as hostile parties and moved quickly away. The light 
of day Avas each minute growing stronger, and we feared discovery before we 
could approach near enough to charge the village. The movement of our 
horses over the crusted snow produced considerable noise, and would doubt- 
less have led to our detection but for the fact that tlie Indians, if they heard it 
at all, presumed it was occasioned by their herd of ponies. I would have 
given much at that moment to know the whereabouts of the first two columns 
sent out. Had they reached their assigned positions, or had unseen and un- 
known obstacles delayed or misled them? These were questions which could 
not then be answered. We had now reached the level of the valley, and be- 
gan advancing in line toward the heavy timber in which and close at hand 
we knew the village was situated. 

Immediatelj' in rear of my horse came the band, all mounted, and each 
with his instrument in readiness to begin playing the moment their leader, 
who rode at their head, and who kept his cornet to his lips, should I'eceive the 
signal. I had previously told him to play "Garry Owen" as the opening 
piece. We had approached near enough to the village now to plainly catch a 
view here and there of the tall white lodges as they stood in irregular order 
among the trees. From the openings at the top of some of them we could per- 
oeive faint columns of smoke ascending, the occupants no doubt having kept 
up their feeble fires during the entire night. We had approached so near the 
village that from the dead silence which reigned I feared the lodges were de- 
serted, the Indians having fled before we advanced. I was about to turn in 
my saddle and direct the signal for attack to be given — still anxious as to 
where the other detachments were — Avlien a single rifle shot rang sharp and 
clear on the far side of the village from where Ave were. Quickly turning to 
the band leader, I directed him to give us " Garry Owen." At once the rol- 
licking notes of that familiar marching and fighting air sounded forth through 
the valley, and in a moment Averc reechoed back from the oj^posite sides by 
the loud and continued cheers of the men of the other detachments, Avho, true 
to their orders, were there and in readiness to pounce upon the Indians the mo- 
ment the attack began. In this manner the battle of the Washita commenced. 
The bugles sounded the charge, and the entire command dashed rapidly into 
the village. The Indians were caught napping; but realizing at once tlie dan- 
gers of their situation, they quickly overcame their first surpi'ise and in an in- 
stant seized their rifles, bows, and arroAVS, and sprang behind the nearest trees, 
Avhile some leaped into the stream, nearly waist deep, and using the bank as 
ft rifle-pit, began a vigorous and determined defence. Mingled with the exul- 



164 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

tant cheers -of my men could be heard the defiant war-whoop of the warriors, 
who from the first fought with a desi^eration and courage which no race of 
men could surpass. Actual possession of the village and its lodges was ours 
within a few moments after the charge was made, but this was an empty vic- 
tory unless we could vanquish the late occupants, who were then pouring in a 
rapid and well-directed fire from their stations behind trees and banks. At 
tlie first onset a considerable number of the Indians rushed from the village in 
the direction from which Elliot's party had attacked. Some broke through 
tlie lines, while others came in contact with the mounted troopers, and were 
killed or captured. 

Before engaging in the fight, orders had been given to prevent the killing 
of any but the fighting strength of the village ; but in a struggle of this charac- 
ter it is impossible at all times to discriminate, particularly when, in a hand-to- 
hand conflict, such as the one the troops were then engaged in, the squaws are 
as dangerous adversaries as the warriors, while Indian boys between ten and 
fifteen years of age Avere found as expert and determined in the use of the pis- 
tol and bow and arrow as the older Avarriors. Of these facts we had numer- 
ous illustrations. Major Benteen, in leading the attack of his squadron 
through the timber below the village, encountered an Indian boy, scarcely 
fourteen j-ears of age ; he was well mounted, and was endeavoring to make 
his way through the lines. The object these Indians had in attempting this 
movement we were then ignorant of, but soon learned to our sorrow. This boy 
rode boldly toward the Major, seeming to invite a contest. His youtliful 
bearing, and not being looked upon as a combatant, induced Major Benteen 
to endeavor to save him by making " peace signs " to him and obtaining liis 
suiTender, when he could be placed in a position of safety until the battle was 
terminated ; but the young savage desired and would accept no such friendly 
couctissions. He regarded himself as a warrior, and the son of a warrior, and 
as such he purposed to do a warrior's part. With revolver in hand he dashed 
at the Major, who still could not regard him as anything but a harmless 
lad. Levelling his weapon as he rode, he fired, but eitlier from excitement or 
the changing positions of both parties, his aim was defective and the shot 
whistled harmlessly by Major Benteen's head. Another followed in quick 
succession, but with no better effect. All this time the dusky little chieftain 
boldly advanced, to lessen the distance between himself and his adversary. A 
third bullet was sped on its errand, and this time to some purpose, as it passed 
through the neck of the Major's horse, close to the shoulder. Making a final 
but ineffectual appeal to him to surrender, and seeing him still preparing to 
fire again, the Major was forced in self-defence to level his revolver and des- 
patch him, although as he did so it was witli admiration for the plucky spirit 
>xhibited by the lad, and regret often expressed that no other course under 
^e circumstances was left him. Attached to the saddle bow of the young In- 
. dian hung a beautifully wrought pair of small moccasins, elaborately orna- 
mented with beads. One of the Major's troopers afterward secured these 
and i)resented them to him. These furnished the link of evidence by Avhich 
We subsequently ascertained who the young chieftain was — a title which was 
justly his, both by blood and bearing. 

We had gained the centre of the village, and were in the midst of the 
lodges, while on all sides could be heai'd the sharp crack of the Indian rifles 
and the heavy responses from the carbines of the troopers. After disposing 
of the smaller and scattering parties of warriors, who had attempted a move- 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 165 

ment down the valley, and in which some were successful, there was but little 
opportunity left for the successful employment of mounted troops. As the In- 
dians by this time had tiiken cover behind logs and trees, and under the banks 
of the stream which flowed through the centre of the village, from which 
stronghold it was impracticable to dislodge them by the use of mounted men, 
a large portion of the command was at once ordered to fight on foot, and the 
men were instructed to take advantage of the trees and other natural means 
of cover, and fight tke Indians in their own style. Cook's sharpshooters had 
adopted this method from the first, and with telling effect. Slowly but steadi- 
ly the Indians were driven from behind the trees, and those who escaped the 
carbine bullets posted themselves with their companions who were already 
firing from the banks. One party of troopers came upon a squaw endeavoring 
to make her escape, leading by the hand a little white boy, a prisoner in the 
hands of the Indians, and who doubtless had been captured by some of their 
war parties during a raid upon the settlements. Who or where his parents 
were, or whether still alive or murdered by the Indians, will never be known, 
as the squaw, finding herself and prisoner about to be surrounded by th« 
troops, and her escape cut oft', determined, with savage malignity, that the tri- 
umph of the latter should not embrace the rescue of the white boy. Cast- 
ing her eyes quickly in all directions, to convince herself that escape was 
impossible, she drew from beneath her blanket a huge knife and plunged it 
into the almost naked body of her captive. The next moment retributive jus- 
tice reached her in the shape of a well-directed bullet from one of the troopers' 
carbines. Before the men could reach them life was extinct in the bodies of 
both the squaw and her unknown captive. 

The desperation with which the Indians fought may be inferred from the 
following : Seventeen warriors had posted themselves in a depression in the 
ground, which enabled them to protect their bodies completely from the fu-e 
of our men, and it was only when the Indians raised their heads to fire that 
the troopers could aim with any prospect of success. All efforts to drive the 
warriors from this point proved abortive, and resulted in severe loss to our 
side. They were only vanquished at last by our men securing positions under 
cover and picking them off by sharpshooting as they exposed themselves to 
get a shot at the troopers. Finally the last one was despatched in this manner. 
In a deep ravine near the suburbs of the village the dead bodies of thirty- 
eight warrioi's were reported after the fight terminated. Many of the squaws 
and children had very prudently not attempted to leave the village when Ave 
attacked it, but remained concealed inside their lodges. All these escaped in- 
jury, although when surrounded by the din and wild excitement of the fight, 
and in close proximity to the contending parties, their fears overcame some of 
them, and they gave vent to their despair by singing the death song, a combi- 
nation of weird-like sounds which were suggestive of anything but musical 
tones. As soon as we had driven the warriors from the village, and the fight- 
ing was pushed to the country outside, I directed "Romeo," the interpreter, to 
go around to all the lodges and assure the squaws and children remaining in 
them that they would be unharmed and kindly cared for; at the same time he 
was to assemble them in the large lodges designated for that jiurpose, whicli 
were standing near the centre of the village. This was quite a delicate mis- 
sion, as it was difficult to convince the squaws and children that they had any- 
thing but death to expect at our hands. 

It was perhaps ten o'clock in the forenoon, and the fight was still raging, 



166 LIIE ON THE PLAINS. 

when to our surprise we saw a small party of Inilians collected ou a knoll a 
little over a mile below the village, and in the direction taken by those Indians 
who had effected an escape through our lines at the commencement of felie 
attack. My surprise was not so great at first, as I imagined that the Indians 
we saw were those who had contrived to escape, and having procured 
their i)onies from tlie herd had mounted them and were then anxious specta- 
tors of the fight, which they felt tliemselves too weak in numbers to participate 
in. In the mean time the herds of ponies belonging to the vilhige, on being 
alarmed by the firing and shouts of the contestants, had, from a sense of im- 
agined security or custom, rushed into the village, where details of troopers 
were made to receive them. California Joe, who had been moving'about in a 
promiscuous and independent manner, came galloping into the village, and 
reported that a large herd of ponies was to be seen near by, and requested 
authority and some men to bring them in. The men were otherwise employed 
just then, but he was authorized to collect and drive in the herd if i>racticable. 
He departed on his errand, and I had forgotten all about him and the ponies, 
when in the course of half an hour I saw a herd of nearly three hundred po- 
nies coming on the gallop toward the village, driven by a couple of squaws, 
who were mounted, and had been concealed near bj', no doubt; while bringing 
up the rear was California Joe, riding his favorite mule, and whirling about 
his head a long lariat, using it as a whip in urging the herd forward. He had 
captured the squaws while endeavoring to secure the ponies, and very wisely 
liad employed his captives to assist in driving the herd. By this time the 
group of Indians already discovered outside our lines had increased until it 
numbered upwards of a hundred. Examining them through my field glass, I 
could plainly perceive that they were all mounted warriors ; not only that, but 
they were armed and caparisoned in full war costume, nearly all wearing tlie 
briglit-colored war-bonnets and floating tlieir lance pennants. Constant ac- 
cessions to their numbers were to be seen arriving from beyond the hill on 
which they stood. All this seemed inexplicable. A few Indians might have 
escaped through our lines when the attack on the village began, but only a 
few, and even these must have gone with little or nothing in their possession 
save their rifles and perhaps a blanket. Who could these new parties be, and 
from whence came they ? To solve these troublesome questions I sent for " Ro- 
meo," and taking him with me to one of the lodges occupied by the squaws, I 
interrogated one of the latter as to who were the Indians to be seen assem- 
bling on the hill below the village. She informed me, to a surprise on my part 
almost equal to that of the Indians at our sudden appearance at daylight, that 
just below the village we then occupied, and which was a part of the Chey- 
enne tribe, were located in succession the winter villages of all the hostile 
tribes of the southern plains with which we were at Avar, including the Arrapa- 
hoes, Kiowas, the remaining band of Cheyennes, the Comanches, and a portion 
of the Apaches; that the nearest village was about two miles distant, and the 
others stretched along through the timbered valley to the one furthest off, 
which was not over ten miles. 

Wliat was to be done? — for I needed no one to tell me tiiat we were certain to 
be attacked, and that, too, by greatly superior numbers, just as soon as the In- 
dians below could make their arrangements to do so ; and they had probaljly 
been busily employed at these arrangements ever since the sound of firing 
had readied them in the early morning, and been reported from village to vil- 
lage. Fortunately, aftairs took a favorable turn in the combat in which we 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 167 

were then engaged, and the firing had almost died awaj'. Onl^- here and there 
wliere some warrior still maintained his position was tlie light continued. 
Leaving as few men as possible to look out for tliese, I hastily collected and 
j'eforuied my command, and posted tliem in readiness for the attack which we 
all felt was soon to be made; for already at different points and in more than 
one direction we could see more than enough warriors to outnumber us, and 
we knew tliey were only waiting the arrival of the chiefs and warriors from 
the lower villages before making any move against us. In the meanwhile our 
temporary hospital had been established in the centre of the village, whore the 
wounded were receiving such surgical care as circumstances would permit. 
Our losses had been severe ; indeed we were not then aware how great they 
had been. Hamilton, who rode at mj^ side as we entered the village, and whose 
soldierly tones I heard for the last time as he calmly cautioned his squadron, 
" Now, men, keep cool, fire low, and not too I'apidly," Avas among the first 
victims of the opening charge, having been shot from his saddle by a bullet 
from an Indian riJie. He died instantly. His lifeless remains were teuderly 
carried by some of his troopers to tlie vicinity of the hospital. Soon after- 
wards I saw four troopers coming from the front bearing between them, in a 
blanket, a wounded soldier; galloping to them, I discovered Colonel Barnitz, 
another troop commander, who was almost in a dying condition, having been 
shot by a rifle bullet directly through the body in the vicinity of the heart. 
Of Major Elliot, the oflicer second in rank, notliiug had been seen since the at- 
tack at (layliglit, when he rode with his detachment into the village. He, too, 
had evidently l)een killed, but as yet we knew not where or how he had fallen. 
Two other officers had received wounds, while tlie casualties among the 
enlisted men were also large. The sergeant-major of the regiment, who was 
witii me when the first shot was heard, had not been seen since that moment. 
We were not in as efiective condition by far as when the attack was made, jet 
we were soon to be called upon to contend against a force immensely superior 
to the one witli which we had been engaged during the early hours of the 
day. The captured herds of ponies were carefully collected inside our lines, 
and so guarded as to prevent their stampede or recapture by the Indians. 
Our wounded, and the immense amount of captured property in the way of 
ponies, lodges, etc., as well as our prisoners, were obstacles in the way of our 
attempting an offensive movement against the lower villages. To have done 
tliis would have comiielled us to divide our forces, when it was far from cer- 
tain that we could muster strength enough united to repel the attacks of the 
combined tribes. On all sides of us tlie Indians could now be seen in consider- 
able numbers, so that from being the surrounding party, as we had been in the 
morning, we now found ourselves surrounded and occupying the position of 
defenders of the village. Fortunately for us, as the men had been expendinga 
great many rounds, Major Bell, the quartermaster, who with a small escort was 
endeavoring to reach us with a fresh supply of ammunition, had by constant ex- 
ertion and hard marching succeeded in doing so, and now appeared on the ground 
with several thousand rounds of carbine ammunition, a reinforcement greatly 
needed. He had no sooner arrived safely than the Indians attacked from the 
direction fi'om which he came. How he had managed to elude their watchful 
eyes I never could comprehend, unless their attention had been so com^jletely 
absorbed in watching our movements inside as to prevent them from keeping 
an eye out to discover what might be transpiring elsewhere. 

Issuing a fresh supply of ammunition to those most in want of it, the fight 



168 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

soon began generally at all points of the circle. For such in reality hail our 
line of battle become — a continuous and unbroken circle of which the village 
was about the centre. Notwithstanding the great superiority in numbers of 
the Indians, they fought witli excessive prudence and a lack of that confident 
manner which they usually manifest when encountering gi-eatly inferior num- 
bers — a result due, no doubt, to the fate which had overwhelmed our first op- 
ponents. Besides, the timber and the configuration of the gi'ound enabled us 
to keep our men concealed until their services were actually required. It 
seemed to be the design and wish of our antagonists to draw us away from the 
village ; but in this they were foiled. Seeing tliat they did not intend to press 
tlie attack just then, about two hundred of my men were ordered to pull down 
the lodges in the village and collect the captured property in huge piles pre- 
pai'atorj^ to burning. This was done in the most effectual manner. When 
everything had been collected the torch was applied, and all that was left of 
the village were a few heaps of blackened ashes. Whether eni'aged at the 
sight of this destruction or from other cause, the attack soon became general 
along our entire line, and pressed with so much vigor and audacity that every 
available trooper was required to aid in meeting tliese assaults. The Indians 
would push a party of well-mounted warriors close up to our linos in the en- 
deavor to find a weak point through which tliey might venture, but in every 
attempt were driven back. I now concluded, as the village was off our hands 
and our wounded had been collected, that offensive measures might be adopted. 
To this end several of the squadrons were mounted and ordered to advance 
and attack the enemy wherever force sufficient was exposed to be a i>roper 
object of attack, but at tlie same time to be cautious as to amliuscades. Colonel 
Weir, who had succeeded to the command of Hamilton's squadron, Colonels 
Benteen and Myers with their respective squadi'ons, all mounted, advanced 
and engagetl the enemy. The Indians resisted every step taken by the troops, 
while every charge made by the latter was met or followed by a charge from 
the Indians, who continued to appear in large numbers at unexpected times 
and places. The squadrons acting in support of each other, and the men in 
each being kept well in hand, were soon able to force tlae line held by tlie In- 
dians to yield at any point assailed. This being followed up promptly, the 
Indians were driven at every point and forced to abandon the field to us. Yet 
they would go no further than they were actually driven. It was now about 
three o'clock in fce afternoon. I knew that the officer left in charge of the train 
and eighty men would push after us, follow our trail, and endeavor to reach 
us at tlie earliest practicable moment. From the tops of some of the liighest 
peaks oi round hills in the vicinity of the village I knew the Indians could 
x-econnoitre the country for miles in all directions. I feared if v.-e re- 
mained as we were then until the following day, the Indians miglit in this 
manner discover the approach of our train and detiich a sufficient body of 
wari'iors to attack and capture it; and its loss to us, aside from that of its 
guard, would have proven most serious, leaving us in the heart of the enemy's 
country, in midwinter, totally out of supplies for both men and horses. 

By actual count we had in our possession eight hundred and seventy-five 
captured ponies, so wild and unused to white men that it was difficult to herd 
them. What we were to do with them was puzzling, as they could not have 
been led had we been possessed of the means of doing tliis; neither could we 
drive them as the Indians were accustomed to do. And even if we could 
take them with us, cither the one wav or the other, it was anything but wise 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 1G9 

31* desirable ©n our part to do so, as such a large herd of ponies, constituting so 
much wealth in the eyes of the Indians, would have been too tempting a prize to 
the warriors who had been fighting us all the afternoon, and to ell'ect their re- 
capture they would have followed and wajiaid us day and night, with every 
prospect of success, until we should have arrived at a place of safety. Besides, 
we had upwards of sixty prisoners in our hands, to say nothing of our wounded, 
to embarrass our movements. We had achieved a great and important suc- 
cess over the hostile tribes ; the problem now was how to retain our advantage 
and steer safelj'^ through the difficulties which seemed to surround our posi- 
tion. Tlie Indians had suft'ered a telling defeat, involving great losses in life 
and Valuable propertj'. Could they succeed, however, in depriving us of the 
train and supplies, and in doing this accomplish the killing or capture of the 
escort, it Avould go far to oflset the damage we had been able to inflict upon 
them and render our victory an empty one 

As I deliberated on these points in the endeavor to conclude upon that 
which would be our wisest course, I could look in nearly all directions and 
see the warriors at a distance collected in groups on the tops of the highest 
hills, apparently waiting and watcliing our next move that tliey might act ac- 
cordingly. To guide my command safely out of the difficulties which seemed 
just then to beset them, I again had recourse to that maxim in war which 
teaches a commander to do that which his enemy neither expects nor desii'ea 
liim to do. 



XVI. 



THE close of the last article left my command on the Washita, still sur- 
rounded by a superior but badly defeated force of Indians. We were 
burdened with a considerable number of prisoners and quite a number of our 
own and the enemy's wounded, and had in our possession nearly nine hundred 
ponies which we had just captured from the enemy. We were far away— just 
how far we did not know — from our train of supplies, and tlie latter witii its 
escort was in danger of capture and destruction by the savages if we did not 
act to pi-event it. We felt convinced that we could not, in the presence of so 
large a body of hostile Indians, hope to make a long march through their 
country, the latter favorable to the Indian mode of attack by surprise and 
ambush, and keep with us the immense herd of captured ponies. Such a 
coarse would only encourage attack under circumstances which would almost 
insure defeat and unnecessary loss to us. We did not need the ponies, while 
the Indians did. If we retained them they might conclude that one object of 
our expedition against them was to secure plunder, an object thorougldy con- 
sistent with the red man's idea of war. Instead, it was our desire to impress 
upon his uncultured mind that our every act and purpose had been simply to 
inflict deserved punislunent upon him for tlie many murders and otlier depre- 
dations committed by him in and around the homes of the defenceless settlers 
on the frontier. Impelled by these motives, I decided neither to attempt to 
take the ponies with us nor to abandon them to the Indians, but to adopt the 
only measure left — to kill them. To accomplisli this seemingly — like most 
measures of war — cruel but necessary act, four companies of cavalrymen 
were detailed dismounted, as a tiring party. Before tbey reluctantly engaged 
in this uninviting work, I took Romeo, the interpreter, and proceeded to the 
few lodges near the centre of the village which we had reserved from destruc- 
tion, and in which were collected the prisoners, consisting of upward of sixty 
squaws and cliildren. Romeo was directed to assemble the prisonei*s in 
one body, as I desired to assure them of kind treatment at our hands, a subject 
about which tliey were greatly wrouglit up; also to tell them what we should 
expect of tliem, and to inform them of our intention to march probably all tliat 
ni^'ht, directing them at the same time to proceed to the herd and select there- 
from a suitable number of ponies to carry the prisoners on the march. AVheu 
Romeo liad collected tliem in a single group, he, acting as interpreter, ac- 
quainted tliom Avith my purpose in calling tliem together, at the same time as- 
surihg them that they could rely confidently upon the fulfilment of any prom- 
ises I made them, as I was the " big chief." The Indians refer to all officers 
of a command as " chiefs," while the officer in command is designated as the 
•' big chief." After I had concludi^d what I desired to say to them, they sig- 
nified tlieir approv.al and satisfaction by gathering around me and going 
through an extensive series of hand-shaking. One of tlie middle-aged squaws 
tlien informed Romeo that slie wished to speak on behalf of lierself and 
companions. Assent having been given to this, she began the delivery of 
an address vvliich for wisdom of sentiment, and easy, natural, but impassioned 
delivery, miglit have been heard Avith intense interest by aa audience of cud- 



LIFE OX THE I'LAITCS. 171 

tivatod refinement. From her remarks, interpreted by Romeo, I gatliered 
much — in fact, the first i-eliable information as to what band we had attacked 
at daylight, wliich chiefs commanded, and many interesting scraps of informa- 
tion. Slie began by saying that now she and tlie women and ciiildren al)oat 
her were in the condition of captivity, whicli for a long time she had 
prophesied would be theirs sooner or later. She claimed to speak not as a 
squaw, but as the sister of the head chief of her band. Black Ketlle, who had 
fallen that morning almost the moment the attack was made. He it was who 
was the first to hear our advance, and leaping forth from his lodge with rifle 
in hand, uttered the first wai'-whoop and fired the first shot as a rally signal to 
his warriors, and was almost immediately after shot down by the opening vol- 
ley of the cavalry. Often had she warned her brother of the danger the vil- 
lage, with its women and children, was exposed to, owing to the frequent raid- 
ing and war jjarties which from time to time had been permitted to go forth 
and depredate upon the settlements of the white men. In the end it was sure 
to lead to detection and punishment, and now her words had only proven too 
true. Not a chief or warrior of the village in her belief survived the battle of 
the forenoon. And what was to become of all these women and children, be- 
reft of everything and of every friend.^ True, it was just. The Avarrioi'S had 
brought this fate upon themselves and their families by their unprovoked at- 
tacks upon the white man. Black Kettle, the head chief and the once trusted 
friend of the white man, h;id fallen. Little Rock, the chief second in i-ank in 
the village, had also met his death while attempting to defend his home against 
his enemies ; others were named in the order of their rank or prowess as war- 
riors, but all had gone the same way. Who was left to care for the women 
and children wlio still lived? Only last night, she continued, did the last war 
party return from the settlements, and it was to rejoice over their achieve- 
ments that the entire village were engaged until a late hour dancing and sing- 
ing. This was why their enemies were able to ride almost into their lodges be- 
fore they were aroused by the noise of the attack. For several minutes she 
continued to speak, first upbraiding in the bitterest terms the chiefs and war- 
riors who had been the cause of their capture, then bewailing in the most plain- 
tive manner their sad and helpless condition. Turning to me sheaddeil, "You 
cliiim to be a chief. This man" (pointing to Romeo) " says you are the big 
chief. If this be true and you are what he claims, show that you can act like a 
great chief and secure for us that treatment which the helpless are entitled to." 
After the delivery of this strongly melodramatic hai'angue there was intro- 
duced a little by-pla}', in which I was unconsciously made to assume a more 
prominent part than either my inclinations or the laws of society might ap- 
prove. Black Kettle's sister, whose name was Mah-wis-sa, and whose address 
had just received the hearty approval of her companions by their earnest ex- 
pression of "Ugh!" the Indian word intended for applause, then stepped into 
the group of squaws, and after looking earnestly at the face of each for a mo- 
ment, approached a young Indian girl — j^robably seventeen years of age — and 
taking her by the hand conducted her to where I was standing. Placing tiie 
hand of the young girl in mine, she proceeded in the Indian tongue to the de- 
livery of what I, in my ignorance of the language, presumed was a form of 
administering a benediction, as her manner and gestures coi'responded with 
this idea. Never dreaming of her purpose, but remembering how sensitive 
and suspicious the Indian nature was, and that any seeming act of inattention 
or disrespect on my part might be misunderstood, I stood a passive participant 



173 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

in tho strange ceremony then being enacted. After concluding the main por- 
tion of the formalities, she engaged in what seemed an invocation of the Great 
Spirit, casting her eyes reverentl)' upward, at the same time moving her 
hands slowly down over the faces of the young squaw and myself. By tliis 
time mj' curiosity got tlie better of my silence, and turning to Romeo, wlio 
stood near me, and who I knew was familiar witli Indian customs, I quietly 
inquired, "What is this woman doing, Romeo?" With a broad grin on his 
swarthy face he replied, " Wliy, she's marryiu' you to that young squaw ! " 
Altho.igh never claimed as an exponent of the peace policy about which so 
much, has been said and written, yet I entertained tlie most peaceable senti- 
ments toward all Indians who were in a condition to do no harm nor violate 
_any law. And while cherisliing these friendly feelings and desiring to do all 
in my power to render our captives comfortable and free from anxiety regard- 
ing their future treatment at our hands, I think even the most strenuous and 
ardeiit advocate of that peace policy which teaclies that the Indian should be 
left free and unmolested in the gratification of his simi^le tastes and habits, 
will at least not wholly condemn me when they learn that this last touching 
and unmistakable proof of confidence and esteem, oftered by Mah-wis-sa and 
gracefully if not blushingly acquiesced in by the Indian maiden, Avas firmly 
but rcspectfuUj' declined. The few reasons Avhich forced me to deny myself 
the advantages of this tempting alliance were certain circumstances over 
which I then had no control, among which was a previous and already solem- 
nized ceremony of this character, Avhicli might have a tendency to render tlie 
second somewluit invalid. Tlien, again, I had not been consulted in regard to 
my choice in this matter — a trifling consideration, but still having its due influ- 
ence. I had not had opportunities to become acquainted with the family of 
the young damsel who thus proposed to link her Avorldly fate with mine. Her 
father's bank account might or might not be in a favorable condition. 'No op- 
portunity liad been given me to study the tastes, disposition, or character of 
the young lady — Avliether she was fond of music, literature, or domestic duties. 
All these Avere questions Avitli whicli I Avas not sufliciently familiar to justify 
me in taking the important step before me. I did not, lioAvever, like certain 
candidates for office, thrice decline by standing up, and witli my hand pressed 
to my heart say, *' Your husband I cannot be"; but through the intermedia- 
tion of Romeo, the interpreter, avIio from the first liad been highly entertained 
by Avhat he saAV Avas an excellent joke on the big chief, and Avondering in 
his own mind liow I Avould extricate mj'self Avithout giving offence, I ex- 
plained to Mah-wis-sa my due appreciation of the kindness intended by her- 
self and her young friend, but tliat according to the Avhite man's laAVs I Avas 
debarred from availing myself of the offer, at the same time assuring them 
of my high consideration, etc. Glad to get away to duties that called me else- 
AA'here, I left Avith Romeo. As soon as Ave had turned our backs on tlie group, 
I inquired of Romeo what object could have been in view Avhicll induced 
Black Kettle's sister to jslay the part she did. " That's easy enougii to under- 
stand; she knoAA's they are in your power, and her object is to make friends 
Avith you as fiir as possible. But you don't believe anything she tells you, do 
you? Why, that squaw — give her the chance, and slie'd lift your or my scalp 
for us and never Avink. Lord, I've heerd 'era talk fine too often to be catched 
BO easy. To hear her talk and abuse old Black Kettle and the rest that I hope 
we've done for, you'd tliink that squaAV never liad had a hand in torturin' to 
death many a poor devil Avho's been jjicked up by them. But it's a fact. 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 173 

'taint no two ways 'bout it. I've lived with tliem people too long not to know 
'em — root and brancli. When she was talkin' all thai palaver to you 'bout 
protectin' 'em and all that sort of stuff, if she could 'a know'd that minute that 
tliese outside Injiuis was 'bout to ^^obble us up she'd 'a been the very fust one to 
ram a knife smack into ye. That's the Avay they alius talk when they want 
anythin'. Do you know her game in wantin' to marry that young squaw to 
you? Well, I'll tell ye; ef you'd 'a married that squaw, then she'd 'a told ye 
that, all the rest of 'em were lier kinfolks, and as a nateral sort of a tiling 
you'd 'a been expected to kind o' provide and take keer of your wife's rela- 
tions. That's jist as I tell it to you — fur don't I know? Didn't I marry a young 
Cheyenne squaw and give her old father two of my best ponies for her, and it 
■wasn't a week till every tarnal Injun in the village, old and young, came to my 
lodge, and my squaw tried to make me b'lieve they were all relations of hern, 
and tliat I ouglit to give 'em some grub ; but I didn't do notliin' of tlie sort." 
♦' Well, how did you get out of it, Romeo? " " Get out of it? Wliy, I got out by 
jist takin' my ponies and traps, and tlie first good chance I lit out; that's how 
I got out. I was satisfied to marry one or two of 'em, but wlien it come to 
marryin' an intire tribe, 'scuse me." 

At this i)oint Romeo was interrupted by the officer in command of the men 
detailed to kill the ponies. The firing party was all ready to pi'oceed with 
its worlc, and was only waiting until the squaws should secure a sufficient 
number of ponies to transport all tlie prisoners on the march. The troopers 
had endeavored to catch the ponies, but they wore too wild and unaccus- 
tomed to white men to permit them to approach. When the squaws entered 
the hei'd they had no difficulty in selecting and bridling the requisite number. 
These being taken off by themselves, the work of destruction began on the re- 
mainder, and was continued until nearly eight hundred ponies were thus dis- 
posed of. All this time the Indians, who had been fighting us from the 
outside covered the hills in the distance, deeply interested spectators of 
this to them strange jiroceeding. The loss of so many animals of value was 
a severe blow to the tribe, as nothing so completely impairs the war-making 
facilities for the Indians of the Plains as the deprivation or disabling of their 
ponies. 

In the description of the opening of the battle in the preceding chapter, I 
spoke of the men having removed their overcoats and haversacks when 
about to charge the village. These had been disposed of carefully on the 
ground, and one man from each company left to guard them, this number be- 
ing deemed sufficient, as they would be within rifle-shot of the main command; 
besides, the enemy as was then supposed would be inside our lines and suffi- 
ciently employed in taking care of himself to prevent any meddling on his part 
with the overco;its and haversacks. This was partly true, but we had not 
calculated upon Indians appearing in force and surrounding us. When this 
did occur, however, their first success was in effecting the capture of the over- 
coats and rations of the men, the guard barely escaping to the village. This 
was a most serious loss, as the men were destined to suffer great discomfort 
from the cold ; and their rations being in the haversacks, and it being uncertain 
when we should rejoin our train, they were compelled to endure both cold and 
hunger. It was when the Indians discovered our overcoats and galloped to 
their capture, that one of my staghounds, Blucher, seeing them riding and 
yelling as if engaged in the chase, dashed from the village and joined the In- 
dians, who no sooner saw him than they shot him through with an arrow. 



174 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

Several months afterward I discovered his remains on the ground near where 
the overcoats had been deposited on that eventful morning. 

^Many noteworthy incidents were observed or rejwrbed during the fight. 
Before the battle began, our Osage allies, in accordance witli the Indian cus- 
tom, dressed in their war costume, painting their fiices in all imaginable col- 
ors, except one tall, fine-looking warrior, who retained his ordinary dress. 
Upon inquiring of the chief, Little Beaver, why this one did not array himself 
as the otiiors had done, he informed me that it was in obedience to a law among 
all tiie tribes, under which any chief or warrior who has had a near relative 
killed by an enemy belonging to another tribe, is not permitted to don the war 
costume or put on war paint until he has avenged the murder by taking a scalp 
from some member of the hostile tribe. A war party of the Cheyennes had 
visited the Osage village the preceding summer, under friendly pretences. 
They had been hospitably entertained at the lodge of the Avarrior referred to 
by his squaw, he being absent on a hunt. When ready to dei)art they killed 
his squaw and destroyed his lodge, and until he could secure a scalp he must 
go on the war path unadorned by feathers or jxaint. After the battle had been 
waged for a couple of liours in the morning, I saw this warrior approaching, 
his horse urged to his highest speed; in his hand I saw Avaving wildly over- 
head something I could not distinguish until he halted by my side, when I 
perceived that it was an entire scalp, fresh and bleeding. His vengeance had 
been complete, and he was again restored to the full privileges of a warrior — a 
right he Avas not long in exercising, as the next time I saw him on the field his 
face Avas completely hidden under the stripes of yellow, black, and vermilion, 
the colors being so arranged apparently as to give him the most hideous vis- 
age imaginaljle. 

Riding in the vicinity of the hospital, I saAV a little bugler boy sitting on a 
bundle of dressed robes, near where the surgeon Avas dressing and caring for 
the Avouuded. His face was completely coveretl Avitli blood, Avhich Avas crick- 
ling down over his cheek from a Avound in his forehead. At first glance I 
thought a pistol bullet had entered his skull, but on stopping to inquire of him 
the nature of his injury, he informed me that an Indian had shot him in the 
head with a steel-pointed arrow. The arrow had struck him just above the 
eye, and upon encountering the skull had glanced under the covering of the 
latter, coming out near the ear, giving the ap[)earanee of having passed 
through the head. There the arrow remained until the bugler arrived at the 
hospital, Avlien he received prompt attention. The arroAV being barbed could 
not be withdrawn at once, but by cutting off the steel point the surgeon Avas 
able to Avitiulraw the Avooden shaft without difficulty. The little fellow bore 
his suffering manfully. I asked him if he saw the Indian who wounded him. 
Without replying at once, he shoved his hand deep down into liis capacious 
trousers pot^ket and fished up nothing more nor less than the scalp of an In- 
dian, adding in a nonchalant manner, "If anybodj' thinks I didn't see him, I 
want them to take a look at that." He had killed the Indian Avith his revolver 
after receiving the arrow Avound in his liead. 

After driA'ing off the Indians Avho had attacked us from tbe outside, so as to 
prevent them from interfering Avith our operations ia tit? vicinity of the village, 
parties Avere sent here and there to look up the dead and Avounded of both sides. 
In spite of the most thorough search, there Avere still uncHscovered Major 
Elliott and nineteen enlisted men, including the sergeant-major, for Avliose 
absence Ave were unable to satisfactorily account. Officers and men of tlie 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 175 

Vavions comnianvls were examined, but notluiif^ was elicited from them except 
that M:ij()r Elliott had been seen about daylight charging with liis command into 
the Anll-ige. I had previously given him up as killed, but was surprised that 
so many of the men should be missing, and none of their comrades be able t© 
account for them. All the ground inside of the advanced lines held by the In- 
dians who attacked us after our capture of the village was closely and care- 
fully examined, in the hope of finding the bodies of some if not all the absen- 
tees, but with no success. It was then evident that when the other bands at- 
tempted to reinforce our opponents of tlie early morning, they had closed tlieir 
lines about us in such manner as to cut oft' Elliott and nineteen of our men. 
What had been the fate of this party after leaving the main command? This 
was a question to be answered only in surmises, and few of these were favora- 
ble to the escape of our comi'ades. At last one of the scouts reported that soon 
after the attack on the village began he had seen a few warriors escaping, 
mounted, from the village, through a gap that existed in our line between the 
commands of Elliott and Thompson, and that Elliott and a small party of troop- 
ers were in close pursuit; that a short time after he had heard very sharp firing 
in the direction taken by the Indians and Elliott's party, but that as the firing 
had continued for only a few minutes, he had thought nothing more of it until 
the prolonged absence of our men recalled it to his mind. Parties were sent 
in the direction indicated by the scout, he accompanying them ; but after a 
search extending nearly two miles, all the parties returned, reporting their 
efforts to discover some trace of Elliott and his men fruitless. As it was now 
lacking but an hour of night, we had to make an effort to get rid of the Indians, 
who still loitered in strong force on the hills, within jilain view of our position. 
Our main desire was to draw them off from the direction in which our train 
laiight be approaching, and thus render it secure from attack until under tlie 
protection of the entire command, when we could defy any force our enemies 
could muster against us. Tlie last lodge having been destroyed, and all the 
ponies except those required for the pursuit having been killed, the command 
was drawn in and united near the village. Making dispositions to overcome 
any resistance which might be offered to our advance, by throwing out a 
strong force of skirmishers, we set out down the valley in the direction where 
the otlier villages had been reported, and toward the hills on which were col- 
lected the greatest number of Indians. The column moved forwai'd in one 
body, with colors flying and band playing, while our prisoners, all mounted on 
captured ponies, were under sufiicient guard immediately in rear of tlie ad- 
vanced troops. For a few moments after our march began the Indians on the 
hills remained silent spectators, evidently at a loss at first to comprehend our 
intentions in thus setting out at that hour of the evening, and directing our 
course as if another night march was contemplated; and more than all, in the 
direction of their villages, where all that they possessed was supposed to be. 
This aroused them to action, as we could plainly see considerable commotion 
among them — chiefs riding hither and thither, as if in anxious consultation 
witii each other as to the course to be adopted. Whether the fact that they 
could not fire upon our advance without endangering the lives of their own 
peo2>le, Avho were j^risoners in our hands, or some other reason prevailed with 
tliem, they never offered to fire a shot or retard our movements in any man- 
ner, but instead assembled their outlying detachments as rajiidly as jjossible, 
and began a precipitjite movement down the valley in advance of us, fully im- 
pressed with the idea no doubt that our purpose was to overtake their flying 



178 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

people and herds and administer the same treatment to them that che occu 
pants of the upper village had received. Tliis was exactly the effect I desired, 
and our march was conducted with such appearance of determination and ra- 
pidity that this conclusion on their part was a most natural one. Leaving a 
few of their warriors to hover along our flanks and watch our progress, tlie 
main body of the Indians, able to travel much faster than the troops, soon dis- 
appeared from our sight in front. We still pushed on in the same direction, 
and continued our march in this manner until long after dark, by which timo 
we readied the deserted villages, the occupants — at least the non-combatants 
and herds — having fled in the morning when news of our attack on Black Ket- 
tle's village reached them. AVe had now reached a point several miles beloW 
the site of Black Kettle's village, and the darkness was sufficient to cover our 
movements from the watchful ej-es of the Indian scouts, who had dogged out 
march as long as the ligklit favored them. 

Facing the command about, it was at once put in motion to reach oui 
train, not only as a measure of safety and pi'otection to the latter, but as a ne 
cessary movement to relieve the wants of the command, particularly that por 
tion whose haversacks and overcoats had fallen into the hands of the Indians 
early in the morning. By ten o'clock we reached the battle ground, but with- 
out halting pushed on, following the trail we had made in striking the village. 
The mnrch was continued at a brisk gait until about two o'clock in the morn- 
ing, when I concluded it would be prudent to allow the main command to halt 
and bivouac until daylight, sending one squadron forward without delay, to re- 
inforce the guard with the train. Colonel West's squadron was detailed upon 
this duty. The main body of the troops was halted, and permitted to build 
huge flres, fuel being obtainable in abundance from the timber which lined the 
valley of tlie Washita — our march still leading us up the course of this stream. 

At daylight the next morning we were again in our saddles and Avonding 
our way hopefully toward the train. The location of the latter we did not 
know, presuming that it had been pushing after us since we had taken our 
abrupt departure from it. Great was our joy and satisfiiction, about ten 
o'clock, to discover the train safely in camp. The teams were at once har- 
nessed and hitched to the wagons, and without halting even to prepare break- 
fast, tlie march was resumed, I being anxious to encamp at a certain point 
that niglit from where I intended sending scouts through Avith despatches to 
General Sheridan. Early in the afternoon this camp Avas reached ; it was near 
the point Avliere Ave had first struck the timbered valley, at the time not know- 
ing that it Avas the valley of the Washita. Ilei'e men and horses were given 
the first opportunity to procure a satisfactory meal since the feAV hasty morsels 
obtained by them during the brief halt made between nine and ten o'clock the 
night Ave arrived in tho vicinity of the village. After posting our pickets and 
rendering the camp secure from surprise by the enemy, horses Avere unsad- 
dled, tents pitched, and every means taken to obtain as comfortable a night as 
the limited means at our disposal and the severities of the season aa'ouUI per- 
mit. After partaking of a satisfactory dinner, I began Avriting my report to 
General Sheridan. First I sent for California Joe, and informed him that I 
desired to send a despatch to General Sheridan that night, and Avould have it 
ready by dark, so that the bearer could at once set out as soon as it Avas suffi- 
ciently dark to conceal his movements from the scouts of the enemy, Avho no 
doubt Avere still folloAving and Avatching us. I told California Joe that I had 
selected him as the bearer of the despatch, and he was at liberty to name the 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 177 

number of men he desired to accompany him, as it was a most perilous mis- 
sion on whicli he was feeing- Tlie exact distance lie would have to ride in or- 
der to reacli General Sheridan's headquarters at Camp Supply could not be 
determined. The command had occupied four days in accomplishing it, but 
California Joe, with his thorough knowledge of the country, and the experi- 
ence of our march, would be able to follow a much more direct route than a 
large command moving with a train. 

He did not seem in the least disturbed when told of his selection for this er- 
rand, so full of danger. Wiien informed that he might name the number of 
men to accompanj" him, I supposed he would say about twelve or more, under 
command of a good non-commissioned officer. Very few persons in or out of 
the military service would have cared to undertake the journey with much less 
than ten times that force, but he contented himself by informing me that be- 
fore answering that question he would walk down to where the scouts were in 
camp and consult his " pardner." He soon returned saying, "I've just been 
talkin' the matter over with my pardner, and him and me both concludes that 
as safe and sure a way as any is for him and me to take a few extra rounds of 
ammunition and strike out from here together the very minnit it's dark. As for 
any more men, we don't want 'em, because yer see in a case of this 'ere kind 
thar's more to be made by dodgin' an' runnin' than thar is by fightin', an' two 
spright men kin do better at that than twenty; they can't be seen half as fur. 
Besides, two won't leave as much of a trail for the Injuns to find. If my pard- 
ner an' me kin git away from here as soon as it is plum dark, we'll be so fur 
from here by daylight to-morrer mornin' the Injuns never couldn't tetch hide 
nor har of us. Besides, I don't reckon the pesky varmints '11 be so overly keen in 
meddlin' with our business, seein' as how they've got their ban's tolerable full 
settin' things to rights at home, owin' to the little visit we've jist made 'em. I 
rather s'pect, all things considerin', them Injuns would be powerful glad to call 
it quits for a spell any way, an' if I ain't off the trail mightily, some of them 
'ere head chiefs as ain't killed will be headin' for the nighest Peace Commis- 
saoner before they git the war paint clean off their faces. This thing of pumji- 
iu' 'em Avhen the snow's a foot deep, and no grass for their ponies, puts a new 
wrinkle in these Injuns' scalp, an' they ain't goin' to git over it in a minnit 
either. Wal, I'm goin' back to the boys to see if I can borrer a little smokin' 
tobacker. I may want to take a smoke on the way. Whenever you git yer 
dockiments ready jist send your orderly down thar, and me and my pardner 
will be ready. I'm mighty glad I'm goin' to-night, for I know Gineral Sheri- 
dan '11 be monstrous glad 4*) see me b:ick so soon. Did I tell yer I used to 
know the Gineral when he was second or third lootenant and post quartermas- 
ter in Oregon? That must 'a been afore your time." 

Leaving California Joe to procure his " tobacker," I assembled all the offi- 
cei's of the command and informed them that as there was but an hour or two 
in which I was to write my report of the. /battle of the Washita, I would not 
have time, as I should have i^referred bb do, to send to them for regular and 
formally written reports of their share i|t the engagement-^ but in. order that I 
might have the benefit of their combined knowledge of the battle- and its re- 
sults, each officer in response to my request gave me a brief summarj' of some 
of the important points which his report would have contained if submitted in 
writing. With this information in my possession, I sat down in my tent and 
penned, in as brief manner as possible, a report to General Sheridan detailing 
our movements from the time Elliott, with his three companies*, discoveuedthe 



178 LIFE ON THE TLAIXS. 

trail, up to the point from which my despatch was written, giving: particularly 
the main facts of our discoverj', attack, and complete destruction of the village 
of Black Kettle. It was just about dark wlien I finisiied tiiis despatch and was 
about to send for California Joe, when that loquacious personage ai)peared at 
the door of my tent. " I'm not so anxious to leave yer all Iiere, but the fact 
is, the sooner me and pardner are off, I reckon tlie better it'll be in the end. 
I want to put at least fifty miles 'tween me and this place b}' dayliglit to-mor- 
rer mornin', so if yer'll jest hurry up yer papers, it'll be a lift for us." 

On going outside the tent I saw that the " pardner " was the scout Jack 
Corbin, the same who liad first brought the intelligence of Elliott's discovery 
of the ti'ail to us at Antelope Hills. He was almost the antipodes of California 
Joe in regard to many points of character, seldom indulging in a remark or 
suggestion unless prompted by a question. These two scouts recalled to my 
mind an amicable arrangement said to exist between a harmonious married 
pair, in which one was willing to do all the talking and the other was jierfectly 
willing he should. The two scouts, who were about to set out to accomplish a 
long journey through an enemy's country, with no guides save the stars, neither 
ever having passed over the route they proposed to take, and much of the ride 
to be executed during the darkness of night, apparently felt no greater, if as 
great, anxiety as to the result of their hazardous mission than one ordinarily 
feels in contemplating a journey of a few hours by rail or steamboat. Cali- 
fornia Joe was dressed and equipi^ed as usual. About his waist and under- 
neath his cavalry greatcoat and cape he wore a belt containing a Colt re- 
volver and hunting knife ; these, with his inseparable companion, a long Sijring- 
field lu'eech-loading rifle, composed his defensive armament. His "pardner," 
Jack Corbin, was vevj similarly arrayed except in equipment, his belt con- 
taining two revolvers instead of one, while a Sharps carbine supplied the jjlace 
of a rifle, being more readily carried and handled on horseback. The nunints 
of tlie two men were as different as their characters, California Joe confiding 
his safety to the transporting powers of his fiivorite mule, while Corbin was 
placing his reliance upon a fine gray charger. Acquainting the men with the 
probable route we should pursue in our onward march toward Camp Supply, so 
that, if desirable, they might be aV)le to rejoin us, I delivered my report to 
General Sheridan into the keeping of California Joe, who, after unbuttoning 
numerous coats, blouses, and vests, consigned the package to one of tlie nu- 
merous capacious inner pockets with which each garment seemed supplied, 
with the remark, " I reckon it'll keep dry thar in case of rain or accident." 
Both men having mountefl, I shook hands with them, wishing them God-speed 
and a successful journey. As they rode off in the darkness California Joe, ir- 
repressil)le to tlie last, called out, " Wal, I hope an' trust yer won't have any 
scrimmage while I'm gone, because I'd hate mightily now to miss anything of 
the sort, soein' I've stuck to yer this fur." 

After enjoying a most gi-ateful and comparatively satisfactory night's rest, 
the demands of hunger on the part of man and beast having been bountifully 
supplied from the stores contained in our train, while a due supply of blankets 
and robes, with the assistance of huge camp-fires, enabled the men to protect 
themselves against the intense cold of midwintei-, our march was resumed at 
daj-light in the direction of Camp Supply. Our wounded had received every 
possible care and attention that a skilful and kind-hearted medical oflicer 
could suggest. Strange to add, and greatly to our surprise as well as joy. 
Colonel Barnitz, wlio liad been carried into the village shot through the body 



LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 179 

and, as all supposed, mortally wounded, with apparently but a few minutes 
to live, had not only survived the rough jostling of the night march made 
aft-er leaving tlie village, but the surgeon. Dr. Lippineott, who was unceasing 
in liis attentions to the wounded, reported indications favorable to a prolonga- 
tion of life if not a complete recovery. This was cheering news to all the 
comrades of Colonel Barnitz. I well remember how, when the Colonel wag 
first carried by four of his men, in the folds of an army blanket, into the vil- 
lage, his face wore that pale deathly aspect so common and peculiar to those 
mortally wounded. He, as well as all who saw him, believed his end near 
at hand. But like a brave soldier, as he was and had proven himself to 
be, death had no terrors for him. Wlien asked l)y me, as I knelt at the side 
of the litter on which he was gasping for breath, whether he had any messages 
to send to absent friends, he realized the perils of his situation, and in half-fin- 
ished sentences, mingled with regrets, delivered, as he and all of us supposed, 
his forewell messages to be transmitted to dear ones at home. And yet, de- 
spite tlie absence of that care and quiet, not to mention little delicacies and 
luxuries, regarded as so essential, and wliich would have been obtainable under 
almost any other circumstances, Colonel Barnitz continued to improve, and 
before many weeks his attendant medical officer was able to pronounce him 
out of danger, although to this day he is, and for the remainder of life will be, 
disabled from further active duty, the ball by wliich he was wounded having 
severed one of his ribs in such a manner as to render eitlier riding or the 
wearing of a sabre or revolver too painful to be endured. By easy marclies 
we gi-adually neared Camp Supply, and had begun to descend the long slope 
leading down to the valley of Wolf creek, the stream on which we had en- 
camped three nights when we first set out from Camp Supply in search of 
Indians. 

With two or three of the Osage guides and as many of the officers, I 
was riding some distance in advance of the colunm of troops, and could indis- 
tinctly see the timber fringing the valley in the distance, when the attention of 
our little party was attracted to three horsemen who were to be seen riding 
slowly along near the edge of the timber. As yet they evidently had not ob- 
served us, the troops behind us not having appeared in view. We were 
greatly at a loss to determine who the three horsemen might be ; they were 
yet too distant to be plainly visible to the eye, and the orderly with my field 
glass was still in rear. While we were halting and watching their move- 
ments we saw that they also had discovered us, one of their number riding up 
to a small elevation near by from which to get a better view of our group. 
After studying us for a few moments he returned at a gallop to his two com- 
panions, when all three turned their horses toward the timber and moved 
rapidly in that direction. We were still unable to determine whether they 
were Indians or white men, the distance being so great between us, when my 
orderly arrived with my field glass, by which I was able to catch a glimpse of 
them just as they were disappearing in the timber, Avhen whose familiar form 
should be revealed but that of California Joe, ui'ging his mule to its greatest 
speed in order to reach the timber before we should discover them. They had 
evidently taken us for Indians, and well they might, considering that two of 
our party wereOsages and the others were dressed in anything but the regula- 
tion uniform. To relieve the anxious minds of California Joe and his com- 
panions. I put spurs to my horse and was soon bounding down the plains lead- 
ing into the valley to join him. I had not proceeded over lialf way when the 



180 • LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

scouts roile cautions!}- out from the timber, and California Joe, after sliailinof 
Ills eyes with his hand and looking for a few moments, raised his huge som- 
brero from his matted head, and waving it above him as a signal of recogni- 
tion, pressed his great Mexican spurs deep into the sides of his humble-looking 
steed, if a mule may receive such an appellation, and the three scouts were 
soon galloping toward us. 

The joy at the meeting was gi-eat on both sides, only dampened somewhat 
on the part of California Joe by the fact that he and his comrades had taken 
to the timber so promi^tly when first they discovered us; but he explained it 
by saying, "I counted on it bein' you all the time when I fust got my eye on 
yer, until I saw two Injuns in the squad, an' forgettin' all about them Osages 
we had along, I jumped at the conclusion that if tliar war any Injuns around, 
the comfortablest place I knowed for us three was to make fur the timber, and 
there make a stand. We war gettin' readj- to give it to j'er if it turned out yer 
war all Injuns. Wal, I'm powerful glad to see yer agin, an' that's sure." 

From his further conversation we were informed that Jack Corbin and him- 
self had made their trip to General Sheridan's headquarters without hindrance 
or obstacle being encountered on their way, and that after delivering the des- 
l>atches and being well entertained in the mean time, they, with one other scout, 
had been sent by the General to endeavor to meet us, bringing from him a 
package of orders and letters. 

While the column was overtaking us, and while California Joe, now in his 
element, was entertaining the attentive group of officers, scouts, and Osages 
who gathered around him to hear him relate in his quaint manner what he 
saw, heard, and told at General Sheridan's headquarters, I withdrew to one 
side and opened the large official envelope in which were contained both offi- 
cial and personal despatches. These were eagerly read, and while the satisfac- 
tion derived from the j)erusal of some of the letters of a private and congratu- 
latory natm'e from personal friends at Camp Supply was beyond expression, 
the climax of satisfaction was reached when my eye came to an official-look- 
ing document bearing the date and heading which indicated dei^artment head- 
quarters as its source. We had but little further to go before going into camp 
for that night, and as the command had now overtaken us, we moved down to 
the timber and there encamped; and in order that the approving words of our 
chief should be transmitted promptly to every individual of the command, the 
line was formed and the following order announced to the officers and men : 

Headquarters Departsient of the Missouri, in the Field, Depot on the North ^ 
Canadian, at the Junction of Beaver Creek, Indian Territory, v 

November 29, 18C8. ) 

General Field Orders No. 6.— The Major General commanding announces to this com- 
maiul the defeat, by the Seventh regiment of cavalry, of a large force of Cheyenne Indians, under 
tlio celebrated chief Black Kettle, rei'nforced by the Arrapahoes under Little Kaven, and the Ki- 
owas imder Satanta, on the morning of the 27th instant, on the Washita river, near the Antelope 
Kills, Indian Territory, resulting in a loss to the savages €■! 3>ne hundred and three warriors killed, 
iicluding Black Kettle, the capture of lifty-three squaws aul children, eight hundred and seventy- 
five ponies, eleven hundred and twenty-three buffalo robes and skins, Ave hundred and thirty -live 
i:o!inds of powder, one thousand and fifty pounds of lead, four thousand arrows, seven hundred 
pounds of tobacco, besides rifles, pistols, saddles, bows, lariats, and immense quantities of dried 
meat and other winter provisions, the complete destruction of their village, and almost total anui- 
liilatJon of thit< Indian band. 

The loss to the Seventh Cavaliy was two olHcers killed, Major Joel H. Elliott and Captain 
Louis McL. Hamilton, and nineteen enlisted men; three officers wounded, Brevet Lieutenant- Col- 
onel Albert Barnitz (badly), Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel T. "W. Custer, and Second Lieutenant T. 
Z. March (slightly), and eleven enlisted men. 

The CBcrgy and i-apidity shown diuing one of the heaviest Bnow-BtonuB that has visited this 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 181 

section of the country, with the temperature below freezing point, and the gallantry and liravery 
displayed, resulting in such signal success, reflect the highest credit upon both the oflicers aafd 
men of tlie Seventh Cavalry; and the Major-General commanding, while regretting the loss of such 
gallant oflicers as Major Klliott and Captain Hamilton, who fell while gallantly leading their men, 
desires to express his thanks to the officers and men engaged in the battle of the Washita, and his 
•Ijecial congratulations are tendered to their distinguished commander. Brevet Major-General 
George A. Custer, for the efficient and gallant services rendered, which have characterized the 
openmg of the campaign agamst hostile Indians south of the ^Ukausas. 

By command of 

Major-General P. H. Sheridan. 
(Signed) J. SCHtJTLEK CROSBr, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel, A. D. C, A. A. A. Geneiul. 

This order, containing as it diil the grateful words of approval from our re- 
vered commander, went far to drown the remembrance of the hunger, cold, 
and danger encountered by the command, in the resolute and united effort 
made by it to thoroughly discharge its duty. 

Words like these, emanating from the source they did, and upon an occa- 
sion such as this was, were immeasurably more welcome, gratifying, and sat- 
isfactory to the pride of officers and men than would have been the reception 
of a budget of brevets, worded in the regular stereotyped form and distrib- 
uted in a promiscuous manner, having but little regard to Avhetlier the re- 
cipient had bravely imperilled his life on the battle-field in behalf of his 
country, or had taken particular care to preserve that life upon some field far 
removed from battle. 

The last camp before we reached Camp Supply was on Wolf creek, about 
ten miles from General Sheridan's headquarters. The Aveather had now 
moderated to the mildest winter temperature, tlie snow having melted and 
disappeared. 

From this point I sent a courier to General Sheridan soon after going into 
camp, informing him of our whereabouts and the distance from his camp, and 
that we would reach the latter at such an hour in the forenoon, when the offi- 
cers and men of my command would be pleased to march in review before him 
and his staff as we finished our return march from the opening of the winter 
campaign. Officers and men, in view of this, prepared to put on their best ap- 
pearance. At the appointed hour on the morning of December 2, the com- 
mand moved out of camp and began its last day's march toward Camp Sup- 
ply. Considering the hard and trying character of tlie duty they had been en- 
gaged in since leaving Camp Supply, the appearance of officers, men, and 
horses was far better than might naturally have been expected of them. 
When we arrived within a couple of miles of General Sheridan's headquarters, 
we were met by one of liis staff officers with a message from the General, that 
it would give him great pleasure to review the Seventh Cavalry as proposed, 
and that he and his staff would be mounted, and take up a favorable jiosition 
for the review near headquarters. In approaching Camp Supply by the route 
we were marching, a view of the camp and depot is first gained from the point 
where the high level plain begins to descend gradually, to form the valley in 
the middle of which Camp Supply is located ; so that by having a man on tlie 
lookout, to report when the troops sliould first make their appearance on the 
heights overlooking Beaver creek, the General was enabled not only to receive 
timely notice of our approach, but to take position with his staff to witness our 
march down the long gradual slope leading into the valley. The day was all 
we could wish — a bright sun overhead, and fiivorable ground for the nianoeu- 
viing of troops. 

I liad taken the precaution to establish the formation of the marching 
column before we should appear in view from General Sheridan's camp, sc 



183 I^IFE ON THE PLAINS. 

that after our march began down the beautiful]}- descending slope to the val- 
ley, no change was made. In many respects the column we formed was unique 
in ajipearance. First rode our Osage guides and trailers, dressed and painted 
in the extremest fashions of war according to their rude customs and ideas. As 
we advanced these warrioi's chanted their war songs, fired their guns in tri- 
umph, and at intervals gave utterance to their shrill war-whoops. Next 
came the scouts riding abreast, with California Joe astride his faithful mule 
bringing up the right, but unable, even during this ceremonious and formal occa- 
ion, to dispense with his pipe. Immediately' in rear of the scouts rode the In- 
dian prisoners under guai-d, all mounted on Indian ponies, and in their dress, 
conspicuous by its bright colors, manj' of them wearing the scarlet blanket so 
popular with the wild tribes, presenting quite a contrast to tlie dull and motley 
colors worn b}' the scouts. Some little distance in rear came the troops formed 
in column of platoons, the leading platoon, preceded by the band playing " Garry 
Owen," being composed of the sharpshooters under Colonel Cook, followed in 
succession by the squadrons in tiie regular order of march. In this order and 
arrangement we marched proudly in front of our chief, who, as the officers 
V(n\e bj' giving him the military salute with the sabre, returned their forma., 
courtesy by a graceful lifting of his cap and a pleased look of recognition from 
his eye, which spoke his approbation in language far more powerful than 
studied words could have done. In speaking of the review afterwards. Gen 
eral Sheridan said the appearance of the troops, with the bright rays of the 
sun reflected from their burnished arms and equipments, as they advanced in 
beautiful order and precision down the slope, the band playing, and the blue 
of the soldiers' unifornis slightly relieved by tiie gaudy colors of the Indians, 
both captives and Osages, the strangely fantastic part played by the Osage 
guides, their shouts, chanting their war songs, and tiring their guns in air, all 
combined to render the scene one of the most beautiful and highly interesting 
he remembered ever having witnessed. 

After marching in review, the troops were conducted across the plain to 
the border of Beaver creek, about a quarter of a mile from General Siieridan's 
camp, where we pitched our tents and prepared to enjoy a brief period of 
rest. 

We had brought with us on our return march from the battle-ground of the 
Washita the remains of our slain comrade. Captain Louis McLane Hamil- 
ton. Arrangements were at once made, upon our arrival at Camp Supply, to 
oflFer the last formal tribute of respect and affection which we as his surviv ng 
comrades could pay. As he had died a soldier's death, so like a soldier he 
should be buried. On the evening of the day after our arrival at Camp Sup- 
ply the funeral took place. A little knoll not far from camp was chosen as the 
resting place to which we were to consign the remains of our dejjarted com- 
rade. In the arrangements for the conduct of the funeral ceremonies, no pre- 
liminary or important detail had been omitted to render the occasion not only 
one of imposing solemnity, but deeply expressive of the high esteem in which 
the deceased had been held by every member of the command. In addition to 
the eleven companies of the Seventh Cavalry, the regular garrison of Camp 
Supply, numbering several companies of the Third Regular Infantry, the regi- 
ment in w'hich Captain Hamilton had first entered the regular service, v/as also 
in attendance. The body of the deceased was carried in an ambulanco as a 
hearse, and covered with a large American flag. The ambulance was pre- 
ceded by Captain Hamilton's squadron, commanded by Brevet Lieutenant- 
Colonel T. B. Weir, and was followed by his horse, covered with a mourning 



LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 183 

sheet and bearing on the saddle — the same in which Captain Hamilton was 
seated when he received liis death wound — the sabre and belt and the reversed 
top-boots of tlie deceased. The pall-bearers were Major-General Sheridan, 
Brevet Lieutenant-Colonels J. Schujder Crosb}^ W. W. Cook, and T. W. Cas- 
ter, Brevet Major W. W. Beebe, Lieutenant Joseph Hall, and myself. 

Our sojourn at Camp Supply was to be brief. We arrived there on the 21 
of December, and in less than one week we were to be in the saddle with our 
numbers more than doubled by reinforcements, and again wending our way 
soutliward over the route we had so lately passed over. 

Before setting out on the last expedition, I had stated to the officers in a 
casual manner that all parties engaged in the conduct of the contemplated 
campaign against the Indians must reconcile tliemselves in advance — no mat- 
ter iiow the expedition might result — to becoming the recipients of censure and 
unbounded criticism; that if we failed to engage and whijj the Indians — labor 
as we might to accomplish this — the people in the West, particularly along 
and near the frontier, those who had been victims of the assaults made by 
Indians, would denounce us in unmeasured terms as being inefficient or luke- 
warm in the performance of our duty; whereas if we should find and imiiisli 
the Indians as they deserved, a wail would rise up from the horrified humani- 
tarians througiiout the country, and we would be accused of attacking and kill- 
ing friendly and defenceless Indians. My predictions proved true ; no sooner 
was the intelligence of the battle of the Washita flashed over the country than the 
anticipated cry was raised. In many instances it emanated from a class of jjer- 
sons truly good in themselves and in their intentions, but who were familiar to 
only a very limited degree with t!ie dark side of the Indian question, and 
whose ideas were of tlie sentimental order. Tliere was another class, howevei% 
equally loud in their utterances of pretended horror, who were actuated by 
pecuniary motives alone, and who, from their supposed or real intimate knowl- 
edge of Indian character and of the true merits of the contest between the In- 
dians and the Government, Avere able to give some weight to their exj^ressed 
opinions and assertions of alleged facts. Some of these last described actually 
went so far as to assert not onlj' that the village we had attacked and destroyed 
was that of Indians who had always been friendly and peaceable toward the 
whites, but that many of the warrioi's and chiefs were partially civilized and 
liad actually borne arms in the Union army during the war of rebellion. The 
n)ost astonishing fact connected with these assertions was not that they wei'e 
uttered, but that many well-informed people believed them. 

The Government, however, was in earnest in its determination to admin- 
ister proper and deserved punishment to the guilty ; and as a mark of ap- 
proval of the opening event of the winter campaign, the following telegram 
from the Secretary of War was transmitted to us at Camp Supply: 

Lieuxenant-Genbral Sherman, St. Louis, Mo. 

War Department, Washington City, December 2, 1868. 
I congratulate yon, Sheridan, and Custer on the splendid success with which your campaign 
is begun. Ask Slieridan to send forward the names of oflicers and men deserving of special men« 
tion. (Signed) J. M. Schofield, Secretary of War. 

It was impracticable to comply with the request contained in the closing- 
portion of the despatch from the Secretary, of War, for the gi-atifying reason 
that every offi 'er and man belonging to the expedition had performed his full 
part in rendering the movement against the hostile tribes a complete success. 



XVII. 



THE close of the last chapter left my command in camp near General Slier* 
idan's headquarters, at the point now known as Camp Supply, Indian 
Territory. We liad returned on the 30th of November from the campaign of 
tlie Washita, well satisfied witli the result of our labors and exposures ; but we 
were not to sit quietly iu our tents or winter quarters, and give way to mutual 
congratulations Ui^on the success Avhich had already rewarded our eflbrts. 
The same spirit who, in the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864:, had so suc- 
cessfully inaugurated the " whirling " movement, was now present, and it was 
determined that upon a slightly modified principle, reinforced by the biting 
frosts of winter, we should continue to " press things '' until our savage ene- 
mies should not only be completely humbled, but be forced by the combined 
perils of war and winter to beg for peace, and settle quietly down within the 
limits of their reservation. 

Such was the import of the closing sentences in the " Congratulatory Or- 
der " published by General Sheridan to the Seventh Cavalry and quoted in the 
Ijreceding chapter. "The opening of the campaign against hostile Indians south 
of Arkansas," were the woi'ds used. We have seen tlie "opening;" if the 
reader will accompany me, I will endeavor to relate that which followed, in- 
troducing the princijjal events which, in connection witli the battle of the 
Washita, resulted in forcing all the " hostile Indians south of the Arkansas " to a 
condition of comparative peace, and gave peace and protection to that portion 
of our frontier which had so long suflfered from their murderous and thieving 
raids. 

In less than one week from the date of our arrival at Camp Supply, we were 
to be again in the saddle and wending our way southward toward the sup- 
IX)sed winter haunts of our enemies — this time, however, Avith more than 
double our former numbers. So long had the thrifty and entei'prising settlers 
upon the frontier of Kansas, particularly those who had selected homes in the 
fertile valleys of the Saline, Solomon, and Republican rivers, been subjected 
to the depredations of the Cheyennes, Ari'apahoes, Apaches, KioAvas, and 
Sioux, and so frequent had the murder and capture of settlers by these Indiana 
become, that the citizens and the officials of the State felt forced to take meas- 
ures in their own defence, and for the purpose of uniting with the forces of the 
General Government, in the attempt to give -quiet and protection to life and 
property to the inhabitants of the border settlements. The last needed im- 
pulse to this movement on the part of the people of Kansas Avas given Avhen 
the Indians, late in the preceding summer, made two raids upon the settle- 
ments in tlie Saline, Solomon, and Republican valleys, and, after murdering 
many of the men and children, burning houses, and destroying or capturing a 
vast amount of stock, carried ofi" into captivity two young Avomen or girls, both 
belonging to highly respected families residing on the exposed border of the 
State. Although one of the captives was married, her marriage to a farmer 
having been celebrated less than one month prior to tlie day of her unfortu- 
nate capture by the Indians, yet neither of them could scarcely be said to 
have passed the line which separates girlhood from Avomanhood. Mrs. j\Ior- 
gan, the bride, was but nineteen, Avhilo her companion in misfortune, Misa 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 185 

Whi^e, was still her junior by a year or more. As they played no unimpor- 
tant part in subsequent operations against tlie Indians, the principal events at- 
tending their capture may not be out of jjlace. Neither knew the other, nor 
had they ever seen each otlier until tliey met as captives in an Indian village 
hundreds of miles from their frontier homes. One can readily imagine with 
what deep interest and mutual symjj.athy the acquaintance of tliese two help- 
less gilds began. Miss Wliite had been captured and carried to the Indian 
village about one month before the capture of Mrs. Moi'gan occurred. The 
brief story of the capture of the former is soon told. One day, her father being 
at Avork in tlie field, slie and a younger sister were engaged in the garden, when 
slie saw four Indians entering the house where her mother and the younger 
cliildren of the family were. Her first impulse Avas to fly, but seeing an Indian 
on the opposite side of the garden she turned and entered the house. One or 
two of the Indians could speak broken English; all of them assumed a most 
friendly demeanor and requested something to eat. This request was met by 
a most prompt and Avilling response upon the part of Mrs. White and her chil- 
dren. Witli true Western hospitality they prepared for their unbidden guests as 
bountifully as the condition of the larder would permit No depredations had 
been committed in that vicinity for some time, and as it was not an ujiusnal 
occurrence for small parties of Indians when engaged on hunting excursions 
to visit the settlements, where they invariably met Avith kind treatment at the 
hands of the settlers, it Avas hoped that after obtaining the desired meal the 
part}'^ AA^ould quietly Avithdraw Avithout committing any depredations. Such, 
hoAvever, AA^as not the intention of the savages. Already on that (\iij tlieir hands 
had been dipped in the Avhite man's blood, and the peaceful procurement of some- 
thing to appease their hunger was merely the di'opjjing of the curtain betAveen 
tAvo acts of a terrible drama. Having satisfied the demands of their appetites, 
it was then time for them to throw asiile the guise of friendship, under Avhich they 
had entered the house and been treated as faA'ored guests, and to reveal the time 
object of their visit. Two stahvart Avarriors grasped Miss White in their arms 
and ruslied toward the door. Neither her shrieks nor the feeble resistance she 
Avas able to offer retarded their movements. As she found herself being rapidly 
carried from the house the last glimpse she obtained of those Avithin revealed her 
mother engaged in an unequal struggle AAdth a iJOAverful Avarri or, Avhile another 
of the savages had felled a younger sister to the floor and Avas tlien engaged in 
destroying such articles of furniture or table Avare as he could lay hands upon. 
Her tAvo captors hurried her from the house, hastened to the spot Avhere they 
had left their ponies, and after binding their captive uiDon the back of one of 
their ponies, and being joined by the others of the party, began their flight from 
the settlements, Avell knowing that th-e alarm Avould soon be given, and pur- 
suit by tlie enraged settlers Avould be the I'esult. Amid the terrible surround- 
ings of her own situation, the anxieties of the fair captive to knoAV the fate of 
the dear ones left behind must have been unspeakable. I can scarcely im.ag- 
ine a more deplorable fate than that to Avhich this defenceless girl had become 
tlie victim. Torn from her home amid scenes of heartrending atrocities, dis- 
tracted Avith anxious thoughts as to the fate which had befallen her mother and 
sisters, she now found herself a helpless prisoner in the hands of the most 
cruel, heartless, and barbarous of human enemies. Unable to utter or com- 
prehend a Avord of the Indian language, and her captors only being able to 
express the most ordinary Avords in broken English, lier condition Avas ren- 
dered the more forlorn, if possible, by her inability to communicate with those 
m whose poAver she found herself. 



186 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

With war parties returning from a foray upon the settlements, the first 
object is to place as long a distance as possilJe between themselves and 
any jxirty whicii may be in pursuit. To accomplish this, as soon as they 
have completed the destruction and havoc of w)iich the settlers are the 
victims, the entire party, usually numbering from fifty to one hundred war- 
riors, collect at a point near the settlements previously agi-eed upon, and 
at once begin their flight toward their village, probably located at least 
two hundred miles from the scene of their attack. Being mounted, as all 
war parties are, upon the fleetest of Indian ponies Avith extra animals driven 
along, little or no rest for either pony or rider is taken during the first twenty- 
four hours, by which time it is no unusual feat for a Avar party to traverse a 
distance of one hundred miles. 

Daring the early part of the flight every precaution is adopted to jirovent 
leaving a heavj^ trail, or one easily to be followed; to this end, instead of mov- 
ing, as is customary, in single file, thereby leaving a clearly defined path, 
each warrior moves independently of his fellows, until all danger from pur- 
suit is safel}' passed, when the party i^ills into single file, and, with the chief at 
the head, moves along in almost unbroken silence. If during an attack upon 
the frontier settlements the Indians should encounter unexpected and success- 
ful resistance, necessitating a premature withdrawal and flight on their part, 
they still resort to stratagem in order to secure their safety. In accordance 
with a plan previously formed and understood by each member of tlie party, 
and specially provided for an emergency, the Avar party finding themselves 
about to encounter successful resistance on the part of tlie frontiersmen beat a 
hasty retreat; but instead of taking their flight in a single direction and in one 
party, thereby leaving an uiunistakable clue for their pursuers, the entire 
party breaks up into numerous smaller bands, each apparently fleeing in an 
independent direction, a fcAV of the best mounted usually falling behind to at- 
tract the attention of the pursuers and give time to those of the party Avho are 
burdened Avith prisoners and captured stock to make good their escai^e. In 
such an emergency as this, a rendezvous for the entire party has been pre- 
viously fixed upon. Its location is usually upon or near some Avater-course or 
prominent landmark, distant perhaps thirty or forty miles; thither all smaller 
parties direct their course, each by a separate and usuallj' a circuitous course. 
Should either of these smaller parties find themselves closely pursued, or their 
trail being foUoAved and all efforts to throw the pursuers oft" prove unavailing, 
they relinquish the plan of uniting Avith the othei's at the established rendez- 
vous, as that Avould imperil the safety of their comrades, and select a new 
route leading neither in the direction of the rendezvous nor of the village, ia 
order not only to elude but mislead their pursuers. Then ensues a long 
and tiresome flight, until, having worn out or outwitted tlieir pursuers, of whose 
movements they keep themselves thoroughlj^ informed, tliey make their Avay 
in safety to the village. At the latter, lookouts are constantly kept on some 
prominent hill to Avatch the coming of the absent Avarriors, and give notice of 
their approach. A Avar i)art3' returning from a successful raid into the settle- 
ments, and bringing with them prisoners and cajjtured stock, is an event of 
the greatest importance to every occupant of the village. Having arrived 
Avithin a few miles of the village, and feeling safe from all danger from pur- 
suit, the chief in command of the Avar party causes a signal smoke to be sent 
up from some high point along the line of march, Avell knowing that watchful 
eyes near the village are on the alert and will not fail to observe the signal and 
understand its meaning. 



LIFE ON niE TLAIXS. 187 

Tt is wonderful to what a state of perfection the Indian has carried tliis sim- 
ple mode of telegraphing. Scattered over a great portionof the plains, from 
British America in the north almost to the Mexican border on the south, are 
to be found isolated hills, or, as tliey are usually termed, " buttes," which can 
be seen a distance of froni twenty to more tlian fifty miles. These peaks are 
selected as the telegraphic stations. By varying the number of the columns of 
smoke difterent meanings are conveyed by the messages. The most simple as 
well as most easily varied mode, and resembling somewhat tlie ordinary alpha- 
bet employed in the magnetic telegraph, is arranged by building a small fire 
which is not allowed to blaze; then, by placing an armful of partially green 
grass or weeds over the fire, as if to smotlier it, a dense white smoke is created, 
which ordinarily will ascend in a continuous vertical column for hundreds of 
feet. Tliijs column of smoke is to tlie Indian mode of telegraphing what tlie 
cuirent of electricity is to the system employed by the white man; the alpha- 
bet so far as it goes is almost identical, consisting as it does of long lines and 
short lines or dots. But how formed? is perhaps the query of tlie reader. 
By the simplest of methods. Having his current of smoke established, the In- 
dian operator simply takes his blanket and by spreading it over the small pile 
of weeds or grass from which the column of smoke takes its source, and pro- 
perlj^ controlling the edges and corners of the blanket, he confines the smoke, 
and is in this way able to retain it for several moments. By rapidly displac- 
ing the blanket, the operator is enabled to cause a dense volume of smoke to 
rise, the length or shortness of which, as well as the number and frequency 
of the columns, he can regulate perfectly, simply by tlie proper use of the 
blanket. For the transmission of brief messages, previously determined 
upon, no more simple method could easily be adopted. As soon .as the look- 
out near the village discerns the ajiproach in the distance of the expected 
war party, the intelligence is at once published to the occupants of the village 
tlirough the stentorian tones of the village crier, the duties of which ofiice are 
usually performed by some superannuated or deposed chief. Runners mounted 
upon fleet ponies are at once despatched to meet the returning warriors and 
gather the particulars of the expedition — whether successful or otherwise ; 
whether they are retm'ning laden with scalps and plunder or come empty- 
lianded. Have they brought pi'isoners and captured liorses? and are their 
own numbers unbroken, or do their losses exceed their gains? These 
and similar questions are speedily solved, when the runners hasten back to 
the village and announce the result, whereupon the occupants of the entire 
village, old and young, sally forth to meet the returning warriors. If the 
latter have been successful and have suffered no loss, they become the recip- 
ients of all the triumph which a barbarous and excited people are capable of 
heaping upon them. They advance toward the village painted and dressed in 
full war costume, singing their war songs, discharging their fire-arms, and 
uttering ever and anon the war-whoop peculiar to their tribe. Added to this, 
every soul in the village capable of uttering a sound joins in the general re- 
joicing, and for a time the entire population is wild with excitement. If, how- 
ever, instead of returning in triuni})!!, the war party has met with disaster and 
suffered the loss of one or more Avarriors, the scene witnessed upon their ar- 
rival at the village is as boisterous as the other, but even more horrible. The 
party is met as before by all the inhabitants of the village, but in a widely dif- 
erentmanner ; instead of the shouts and songs of victory which greet the success- 
ful warriors, only the screams and wails of an afflicted people are to be heard; 



188 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

the war paint and bright colors give way to a deep black with which all the 
mourners and friends of the fallen warriors besmear tlieir faces, wliile the 
members of the immediate family begin hacking and scarifying tlieir faces, 
arms, and bodies with knives, and give way to lamentations the most piercing 
and liorrible in sound. A not infrequent mode of disfiguring themselves, and 
one which I have often seen, is for the mourner, particuhirly if the one mourned 
is a wife or husband, to cut off the first johit of tlie little finger. This of course 
is done without the slightest regard for the rules of surgery, of which the In- 
dians generally are wofully ignorant. The operation is simply performed by 
taking a knife, often of questionable sharpness, and cutting through tlie flesh 
and first joint of the little finger, leaving no " flap" of flesh to cover the ex- 
posed bone. As a result, in healing the flesh withdraws from the mutilated por- 
tion of the finger, and usually leaves nearly an inch of bone exjDosed, present- 
ing of course a most revolting appearance. 

The village to which Miss White's captors belonged was located at that 
time south of the Arkansas river, and distant from her home at least three 
hundred miles. How many girls of eighteen years of age possess the physi- 
cal ability to survive a journey such as lay before this lonely captive? Un- 
provided with a saddle of any description, she Avas mounted upon an Indian 
pony, and probably required to accomplish nearly, if not quite, one hundred 
miles within the first twenty-four hours, and thus to continue the tiresome 
journey with but little rest or nourishment. Added to the discomforts and 
great fatigue of the journey was something more terrible and exhausting 
than eitlier. The young captive, although a mere girl, was yet safiiciently 
versed in the perils attending frontier life to fully comprehend that upon lier 
arrival at the village a fate awaited her more dreadful than death itself. She 
realized that if her life had been spared by her savage captors it was due to 
no sentiment of mercy or kindness on their part, but simply that she might 
be reserved for a doom far more fearful and more to be dreaded than death. 

The capture of Mrs. Morgan occurred about one month later, and in the 
same section of country, and the story of her capture is in its incidents 
almost a repetition of that of Miss White. Her j'oung husband was engaged 
at work in a field, not far from the house, when the crack of a rifle from the 
woods near by summoned her to the door. She barely had time to see her 
husband fall to the ground when she discovered several Indians rushing 
toward the house. Her first impulse was to seek safety in flight, but already 
the Indians had surrounded the house, and upon her attempting to escape one 
of the savages felled her to the ground by a blow from his war club, and she 
lost all consciousness. When slie recovered her senses it was only to find her- 
self bound upon the back of a pony which was being led by a mounted warrior, 
while another warrior rode behind and ui'ged the pony she was mounted upon 
to keep up the trot. There were about fifty warriors in the party, nearly all 
belonging to the Cheyenne tribe, the others belonging to the Sioux and Arra- 
pahoes. As in the case of the capture of Miss White, a rapid flight immediately 
followed the capture. 

It was the story oft rejieated of outrages like these, but particularly of these 
two, that finally forced the people of Kansas to take up arms in their own de- 
fence. Authority was obtained from the General Government to raise a regi- 
ment of cavalry, whose services were to be accepted for a jjeriod of six 
months. So earnest and enthusiastic had the people of the frontier become 
in their determination to reclaim the two captives, as well as administer justly- 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 189 

merited iiunishraent, that people of all classes and callings were eager to 
abandon their professions and tiike up arms against the trailitional enemy of 
the frontier. Tlie Governor of the State, Hon. S. J. Crawford, resigned the 
duties of the Executive of the State into the hands of the Lieutenant-Governor, 
and placed himself at the head of the regiment, wliiuh was then being organ- 
ized and equipped for service during the winter campaign. After the return 
of the Seventh Cavalry from the Wasliita campaign, we were simply waiting 
the arrival at Camp Supply of the Kansas volunteers before again setting out 
to continue the campaign, whose opening had begun so auspiciously. Se- 
vere storms delayed tlie arrival of the Kansas troops beyond the expected 
time. They reached Camp Supply, however, in time for the 7th of De- 
cember to be fixed upon as tlie date of our departure. My command, as 
thus increased, consisted of eleven companies of the Seventh United States 
Cavalry; ten companies of the Nineteenth Kansas volunteer Cavaliy, Colonel 
S. J. Crawford commanding; a detaehment of scouts under Lieutenant Silas 
Pepoon, Tenth Cavalry; and between twenty and thirty whites, Osage and 
Kaw Indians, as guides and trailers. As our ultimate destination was Fort 
Cobb, Indian Territory, where we would obtain a renewal of our supplies after 
tlie termination of our proposed march, and as General Sheridan desired to 
transfer his headquarters " in the field " to that point, he decided to accom- 
2)any my command, but generously declined to exercise any command of the 
expedition, merely desiring to avail himself of this opportunity of an escort 
without rendering a detachment for that purpose necessary ; and, as he re- 
marked when announcing his intention to accompany us, he simply wished to 
be regarded as a "passenger." 

The day prior to our departure I was standing in front of my tent, when a 
young man, probably twenty-one or two years of age, accosted me and began 
a conversation by inquiring when I expected the expedition would move. Any 
person who has had much to do with expeditions in the Indian country knows 
how many and how frequent are the applications made to the commanding 
ollicer to obtain employment as scouts or guides. Probably one in fifty of 
. the applicants is deserving of attention, and if employed would prove 
" worthy of his liire." Taking but a glance at the young man who addressed 
me, and believing him to be one of the numerous applicants for employment, 
my attention being at the time absorbed with other matters, I was in no mood 
to carry on a conversation which I believed would terminate in an offer of ser- 
vices not desired. I was disposed to be somewhat abrupt in my answers, but 
there was something in the young man's earnest manner, the eagerness with 
which he seemed to await my answers, that attracted and interested me. After 
a few questions on his part as to what portion of the country I expected to 
march through, what tribes I might encounter, and others of a similar nature, 
he suddenly said, •' General, I want to go along with you." This only con- 
firmed my first impression, although from his conversation I soon discovered 
tJiat he Avas not one of the professional applicants for employment as a scout 
or guide, but more likely had been seized with a spirit of wild romance, and 
imagined the proper field for its display would be discovered by accompanying 
an expedition against the Indians. Many instances of this kind had previous- 
ly fallen under my observation, and I classed this as one of them; so I simply 
informed him that I had already employed as many scouts and guides as were 
required, and that no position of that character, or any other in fact, was open 
to him. Not in the least discouraged by this decided refusal, he replied: " But 



190 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

you do not understand me; I do not desire employment in your command, nor 
any position requiring pay. I only ask permission to accompany your exijodi- 
tion. I liave neither arms nor horse ; if you will furnish me these, and per- 
mit me to go witli you, I will serve you in any capacity I can, and will expect 
uo pay." 

My curiosity was now excited ; I therefore pressed him to explain his mo- 
tive in desiring to accompanj' tlie expedition. 

" ^Ve]l, I'll tell you; it's a sad story. About four months ago the Indians at- 
tached my home, and carried off my only sister, a girl nineteen years of ago. 
Since that day I have heard not a word as to what has become of her. I know 
not wlietlier she is among the living or dead; but when I think of what must 
be her fiite if among the living, I am almost tempted to wish she was quietly 
resting among the dead. I do not even know what tribe was engaged in her 
ca23ture, but hearing of j'our expedition I thought it might afford me the metxns 
of getting some clue to my sister's fate. You may have a council with some 
of the chiefs, or some of the prisoners you captured at the buttle of the Washita 
may tell me something of her; or if I can only learn where she is, perhaps 
you can excliange some of your prisoners for her; at any rate, tlie only chance 
I iiave to learn anything concerning her is by being permitted to accompany 
your expedition." 

Of course he was permitted to accompany the expedition; not only that, 
but he was provided with a horse and arms, and appointed to a remunerative 
position. I asked him wliy he had not informed me at first as to his object in 
desiring to go with us. He replied tliat he feared that if it was known that 
he was in search of a lost sister, and we sliould afterward have interviews 
Avitli the Indians, as we certainly would at Fort Cobb, he might not be as suc- 
cessful in obtaining information as if the object of his mission was unknown. 

The name of this young man was Brewster, and the lost sister in Avhose 
search he was so earnestly engaged was Mrs. Morgan, whose capture has al- 
ready been described. From him I learned that Mrs. Morgan's husband, 
altliough shot down at the first fire of the Indians, was in a fair Avay to re- 
cover, although crippled probal:tly for life. But for his wounds, he too would 
have joined the brother in a search for the sister and for his bride, wliose hon- 
eymoon had met with such a tragic interruption. Young Brewster remained 
with my command during the entire winter, accompanying it, and every de- 
taclnueut made from it, in the eager hope to learn something of the fate of iiis 
sister. In his continued etturts to discover some clue leading to her he dis- 
played more genuine courage, perseverance, and physical endurance, and a 
greater degree of true brotherly love and devtotion, than I have ever seen com- 
bined in one person. We will hear from hiin as the story progresses. 

It was decided to send the captives taken at the Washita to Fort Ilays, 
Kansas, where they could not only be safely guarded, but be made far more 
comfortable than at Camp Supply. Before the expedition moved I suggested 
to General Slieridan that I should take with the expedition three of the 
squaws who were prisoners in our hands, with a view to rendering their ser- 
vices available in establishing communication with tlie hostile villages, if at 
any time this should become a desirable object. General Sheridan approved 
of the suggestion, and I selected three of the captives who were to accompany 
us. The first was INIali-wis-sa, the sigter of Black Kettle, whose acquaint- 
ance the reader may Iiave formed in the preceding chapter; the second was a 
Sioux squav/, probably fifty years of age, whom Mah-wis-sa expressed a desire 



LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 191 

to have accompany her, ami wlio at tunes was disposed to be extremely com- 
muuicative in regard to the winter resorts of the various tribes, and other mat- 
ters connected with the purposes of the expedition. The third was the 
daughter of Little Rock, the chief second in rank to Black Kettle, who had 
been killed at the battle of the Washita. Little Rock's daughter was an ex- 
ceedingly comely squaw, possessing a bright, cheery face, a countenance beam- 
ing with intelligence, and a disposition more inclined to be merry than one 
usuall}' finds among the Indians. Siae was probably rather under tlian over 
twenty years of age. Added to bright, laughing eyes, a set of pearly teeth, 
and a rich complexion, her well-shaped head was crowned with a luxuriant 
growth of the most beautiful silken tresses, rivalling in color the blaclaiess of 
the raven, and extending, when allowed to fall loosely over her shoulders, 
to below her waist. Her name was Mo-nah-se-tah, Avhich, anglicized, means 
"The young grass that shoots in the spring." ilo-nali-se-tah, although yet a 
maiden in years and appeai'ance, liad been given in marriage, or, moi'e proji- 
erly speaking, she had been traded in marriage, as an Indian maiden who 
should be so unfortunate as to be " given " away would not be looked upon as 
a very desirable match. In addition to her handsome appearance, both in 
form and featui'e, and to anj' other personal attraction Avhich might be con- 
sidered peculiarly her own, Mo-nah-se-tah, being the daughter of a chief high 
in rank, was justly considered as belonging to the cream of the aristocracy, 
if not to royalty itself; consequently the suitors who hoped to gain her hand 
must be prepared, according to the Indian custom, to pay handsomely for an 
alliance so noble. Little Rock, while represented as having been a kind and 
afFeclionate father, yet did not propose that the hand of his fixvorite daugh- 
ter sliould be disposed of without the return of a due equivalent. 

Among the young warriors of the tribe there were many who would 
liave been proud to call Mo-nah-se-tali to preside over the domestic destinies 
of their lodge, but the price to be paid for so distinguished an alliance was 
beyond the means of most of them. Among the number of young braves who 
aspired to the honor of her hand was one who, so for as worldly wealth was 
concerned, was eligible. Unfortunately, however, he had placed too much 
reliance upon this fact, and had not thought that while obtaining the consent 
of paterfamilias it would be well also to win the heart of the maiden; or per- 
haps he had, in seeking her hand, also attempted to gain her heart, but not 
meeting with the desired encouragement from the maiden of his choice, was 
Avilling to trust to time to accomplish the latter, provided only he could secure 
the first. According to Indian customs the consent of the bride to a proposed 
marriage, while it may be ever so desirable, is not deemed essential. All 
that is considered absolutely essential is, that the bridegroom shall be accept- 
able to the father of the bride, and shall transfer to the possession of the latter 
ponies or other articles of barter, in sufficient number and value to be consid- 
ered a fair equivalent for the hand of the daughter. When it is stated that 
from two to four ponies are considered as the price of the average squaw, and 
tliat the price for the hand of J\[o-nah-se-tah, as finally arranged, was eleven 
ixniies, some idea can be formed of the high opinion entertained of her. 

It proved, however, so far as the young warrior was concerned, an unsat- 
isfactory investment. The ponies Avere transferred to Little Rock, and all 
the formalities were duly executed which, by Indian law and custom, were 
necessary to constitute Mo-nah-se-tah the wife of tlie young brave. She was 
forced to take up her abode in his lodge, but refused to acknowledge him as 



1J)2 LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

her husband, or to render him that obedience and menial service \vl>ich the 
Indian liusband exacts from his wife. Time failed to soften her heart, or to 
cause her to look kindly upon her self-constituted but unrecognized lord and 
mitoter. 

Here was a clear case of "incompatibility of disposition"; and within the 
jurisdiction of some of our State laws a divorce would have been gi'anted 
almost unquestioned. The patience of the young husband having become 
exhausted, and he having unsuccessfully resorted to every measure of kind- 
ness deemed likely to Avin the love and obedience of his wife, he determined to 
have recourse to harsher measures — if necessary, to employ force. Again ho 
mistook the character of her upon Avhose apparently obdurate heart neither 
threats nor promises had produced the faintest eflfect. Mo-nah-se-tah had i)rob- 
ably been anticipating such a decision, and had pre23ared Jierself accordingly. 
Like most Indian women, she was as skilful in the handling and use of weapons 
as most warriors are ; and Avhen her husband, or rather the husband who had 
been assigned to her, attempted to establish by force an authority which she 
had persistently refused to recognize, she reminded him that she was the 
daughter of a great chief, and rather than submit to the indignities which he 
was thus attempting to heap upon her, she would resist even to the taking of 
life ; and suiting the action to the word, she levelled a small jjistol which she 
had carried concealed beneath her blanket and fired, wounding him in the 
knee and disabling him for life. 

Little Rock, learning of what had occurred, and finding upon investigation 
that his daughter had not been to blame, concluded to cancel the marriage — to 
grant a divorce — 'which was accomplished simply by returning to the unfortu- 
nate husband the eleven ponies which had been paid for the hand of Mo-nah- 
se-tah. What an improvement upon the method prescribed in the civilized 
world ! Xo lawyer's fees, no publicity nor scandal ; all tedious delays are avoided, 
and the result is as nenrly satisfactory to all j^arties as is possible. 

Having sent a messenger to ask the three Indian women referred to to 
come to my tent, I acquainted them with my intention of taking them with the 
expedition when we moved in search of the hostile villages. To my surprise 
they evinced great delight at the idea, and exjilamed it by saying that if they 
accompanied us they might be able to see or communicate with some of their 
people, while by remaining with the other prisoners, and becoming further sep- 
arated from their own country and hunting-grounds, they could entertain littie 
or no hope of learning anything concerning the fate of other portions of their 
tribe. They gladly acceded to the proposition to accompany the troojis. I then 
inquired of them in which mode they preferred to travel, mounted upon ponies, 
as was their custom, or in an ambulance. Much to my surprise, remembering 
how loath the Indian is to adopt any contrivance of the white man, tliey chose 
the ambulance, and wisely too, as the season was that of midwinter, and the 
interior of a closely covered ambulance was a much less exposed position than 
that to be found on the back of a pony. 




LONE WOLF. HEAD CHIEF OF THE KIOWAS. 



XVIII. 



FORAGE for the horses and mules, and rations for the men, sufficient of 
both to last thirty days, liaving been loaded on tlie wagons, the entire 
command, composed as previously stated, and accompanied by General Sheri- 
dan and staff, left Camp Supply early on the morning of December 7, and 
turning our horses' heads southward, we marched in the direction of the 
battle-ground of the Washita. Our marcli to the Washita was quiet and un- 
eventful, if we except the loquacity of California Joe, who, now that we were 
once more in the saddle with the prospect of stirring times before us, seemed 
completely in his element, and gave vent to his satisfliction by indulging in 
a connected series of remarks and queries, always supplying the answer to 
the latter himself if none of his listeners evinced a disposition to do so for him. 
His principal delight seemed to be in speculating audibly as to what would be 
the impression produced on the minds of the Indians when they discovered 
us returning with increased numbers both of men and wagons. 

" I'd jist like to see the streaked count'nances of Satanta, Medicine Arrow, 
Lone Wolf, and a few others of 'em, when they ketch the fust glimpse of the 
outfit. They'll think we're comin' to spend an evenin' with 'em sure, and hev 
brought our knittin' with us. One look '11 satisfy 'em thar '11 be sum of the 
durndest kickin' out over these plains that ever war lieern tell uv. One good 
thing, it's goin' to cum as nigh killin' uv 'em to start 'em out this time uv year 
as ef we hed an out an' out scrummage with 'em. The way I looks at it they 
hev jist this preference: them as don't like bein' shot to deth kin take ther 
chances at freezin'," In this interminable manner California Joe would pur- 
sue his semi-soliloquies, only too delighted if some one exhibited interest suf- 
ficient to propound an occasional question. 

As our proposed route bore to the southeast after reaching the battle- 
field, our course was so chosen as to cai-ry us to the Washita river a few 
miles below, at which point we encamped early in tlie day. General 
Sheridan desired to ride over the battle-ground, and we ho.ped by a careful 
examination of the surrounding country to discover the remains of Major El- 
liott and his little party, of whose fate there could no longer be tlie faintest 
doubt. With one hundred men of the Seventh Cavalry, under command of 
Captain Yates, we proceeded to the scene of the battle, and from there dis- 
persed in small parties in all directions, with orders to make a thorough search 
for our lost comrades. We found the evidences of the late engagement 



194 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

much as we had left them. Here were tlie bodies, now frozen, of the seven 
hundred ironies which we had plain after tiie battle; here and there, scattered 
in and about the site of the former village of Black Kettle, lay the bodies of 
many of the Indians wlio fell during the struggle. Many of the bodies, how- 
ever, particuhirly those of Bhick Kettle and Little Rock, had been removed 
by their friends. Why any had been allowed to remain imcared for, couhl 
oidy be explained upon the supfjosition that the hasty flight of the other villa- 
ges prevented the Indians from carrying away any except the bodies of the 
most prominent chiefs or warriors, although most of those remaining on the 
battle-ground were found wrapped in blankets and bound with lariats prepai'a- 
tory to removal and burial. Even some of the Indian dogs were found loiter- 
ing in the vicinity of the places where the lodges of their former masters stood ; 
but, like the Indians themselves, they were suspicious of the white man, and 
could hardly be induced to establish friendly relations. Some of the soldiers, 
however, tnanaged to secure possession of a few young pupj^es; these were 
carefully brought up, and to this day they, or some "of their descendants, are 
in the possession of members of the command. 

After riding over the ground in the immediate vicinity of the village, 1 
joined one of the parties engaged in the search for the bodies of Major Elliott 
and his men. In describing the search and its result, I cannot do better 
than transcribe from my official report, made soon after to General Sheridan : 

" After marching a distance of two miles in the direction in which Major 
Elliott and his little party were last seen, we suddenly came upon the stark, 
stiff, naked, and horribly mutilated bodies of our dead comrades. No words 
were needed to tell how desperate had been the struggle before they were 
finally overpowered. At a short distance from where the bodies laj', 
fould be seen the carcasses of some of the horses of the party, which 
liad probably been killed early in the fight. Seeing the hopelessness of 
H^reaking through the line which surrounded them, and which undoubtedly 
numbered more than one hundred to one, Elliott dismounted his men, tied 
their horses together, and prepared to sell their lives as dearly as possible. It 
may not be improper to add tliat in describing, as far as possible, the details 
of Elliott's fight I rely not only upon a critical and personal examination 
of the ground and attendant circumstances, but am sustained by the statements 
of Indian chiefs and warriors who witnessed and participated in the fight, and 
who have since been forced to enter our lines and surrender themselves up,' 
under circumstances which will be made to appear in other portions of this 
report. 

" The bodies of Elliott and his little band, with but a single exception, were 
found lying within a circle not exceeding twenty yards in diameter. We 
found them exactly as they fell, except that their barbarous foes had stripped 
and mutilated the bodies in the most savage manner. 

"All the bodies were carried to camp. The latter was reached after dai-k. 
It being the intention to resume the march before daylight the following day, 
a grave was hastily prepared on a little knoll near our camp, and, with the 
exception of that of Major Elliott, whose remains were carried with us for in- 
terment at Fort Arbuckle, the bodies of the entire party, under the dim light 
of a few torches held by of sorrowing comrades, were consigned to one 
common resting place. No funeral note sounded to measure their pas- 
sage to the grave. No volley was fired to tell us a comrade was receiving the 
last sad rites of burial, that the fresh earth had closed over some of our truest 
and most daring soldiers. 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 195 

" Before interment, I caused a complete examination of each body to be 
made by Dr. Lippincott, cliief medical otRcerof the expedition, with direction 
to report on the character and number of wounds received by each, as well as 
to mutilations to Avhich they had been subjected. Tlic following extracts are 
taken from Dr. Lippincott's report : 

"Major Joel II. Elliott, two bullet holes in head, one in left cheek, right 
(hand cut off, left foot almost cut off, ... . deep gash in right groin, 
jdeep gashes in calves of both legs, little finger of left hand cut off, and throat 
cut. 

" Sergeant-Ma j or Walter Kennedy, bullet hole in right temple, head partly 
cut off, seventeen bullet holes in back, and two in legs. 

" Corporal Harry Mercer, Troop E, bullet hole in right axilla, one in 
region of heart, three in back, eight arrow wounds in back, right ear cut off, 
head scalped, and skull fractured, deep gashes in both legs, and throat cut. 

" Private Thomas Christer, Ti'oop E, bullet hole in head, right foot cut off, 
bullet hole in abdomen, and tliroat cut. 

" Corpoi-al William Carrick, Troop H, bullet hole in right parietal bone, 
both feet cut off, throat cut, left arm broken. 

" Private Eugene Clover, Troop H, head cut off, arrow wound in right side, 
both legs terribly mutilated. 

" Private William Milligan, Troop H, bullet hole in left side of head, deep 
gashes in right leg, .... left arm deeply gashed, head scalped, and 
throat cut. 

" Corporal James F. Williams, Troop I, bullet hole in back; head and both 
arms cut off, manj'^ and deep gashes in back 

"Private Thomas Dooney, Troop I, arrow hole in region of stomach, 
thorax cut open, head cut off, and right slioulder cut by a tomahawk. 

" Farrier Tliomas Fitzpatrick, Troop M, bullet hole in left parietal bone, 
head scalped, arm broken, .... throat cut. 

" Private John Myres, Troop M, several bullet holes in head, scalped, 
nineteen bullet holes in body, .... throat cut. 

♦' Private Cal. Sharpe, Troop M, two bullet holes in right side, throat cut, 

one bullet hole in left side of head, one arrow hole in left side, 

left arm broken. 

" Unknown, head cut off, body partially destroyed by wolves. 

"Unknown, head and right hand cut off, .... three bullet and 
nine arrow holes in back. 

" Unknown, scalped, skull fractured, six bullet and thirteen arrow holes in 
back, and three bullet holes in chest." 

I have quoted these extracts in order to give the reader an insight of the 
treatment invariably meted out to Avhite men who are so unfortunate as to fall 
■within the scope of the red man's bloodthirsty and insatiable vengeance. The 
report to General Slieridan then continues as follows: 

" In addition to the wounds and barbarities reported by Dr. Lippincott, I 
saw a portion of the stock of a Lancaster rifle protruding from the side of one 
of the men; the stock had been broken off near the barrel, and the butt of it, 
probably twelve inches in length, had been driven into the man's side a dis- 
tance of eight inches. The forest along the banks of the Washita, from the 
battle-gi-ound a distance of twelve miles, was found to have been one contin- 
uous Indian village. Black Kettle's band of Cheyennes was above; then came 
other hostile tribes camped in the following order : Arrapahoes under Little Ra- 



106 LIFE ON THE PLAIN'S. 

ven ; Kiowas under Satanta and Lone Wolf; the remainino; bands of Cheyennes, 
Comanches, and Apaches. Nothing coukl exceed the disoi'der and haste ^Yith 
which these tribes had fled from their camping grounds. Tliey had abandoned 
tliousands of lodge i:)oles, some of whicli were still standing, as when last 
used. Immense numbers of camp kettles, cooking utensils, cofl:ee-mills, axes, 
and several hundred buffalo rol)es were found in tlie abandoned camps adja- 
cent to Black Kettle's village, but which had not been visited before by 
our troops. By actual examination, it was computed that over six hundred 
lodges had been standing along the Washita during the battle, and within five 
miles of the battle-ground, and it was from these villages, and others still 
lower down the stream, that the immense number of warriors came who, af- 
ter our rout and destruction of Black Kettle and his band, surrounded my 
command and fought until defeated by the Seventh Cavalry about 3 p. m. on 
the 27th ult. ... In the deserted camp, lately occupied by Satanta with 
the Kiowas, my men discovered the bodies of a young white woman and child, 
the former apparently about twenty-three years of age, the latter probably 
eighteen months old. They were evidently mother and child, and had not 
long been in captivity, as the woman still retained several articles of her 
Avardrobe about her person — among others a pair of cloth gaiters but little 
worn, everything indicating that she had been but recently captured, and upon 
our attacking and routing Black Kettle's camp her captors, fearing she might 
be recaptured by vis and her testimony used against them, had deliberately 
murdered her and her child in cold blood. The woman had received a shot 
in the forehead, her entire scalp had been removed, and her skull horribly 
crushed. The child also bore numerous marks of violence." 

At daylight on the following morning the entire command started on the 
trail of the Indian villages, nearly all of which had moved down the Washita 
toward Fort Cobb, where they had good reason to believe they would receive 
protection. The Arrapahoes and remaining band of Cheyennes left the Washi- 
ta valley and moved across in the direction of Red river. After following the 
trail of the Kiowas and other hostile Indians for seven days, over an almost 
impassable country, where it was necessary to keep two or three hundred men 
almost constantly at work with picks, axes, and spades, before being able to 
advance with our immense tx-ain, my Osage scouts came galloping back on the 
morning of the 17th of December, and repoi'ted a party of Indians in our front 
bearing a flag of truce. 

It is to this day such a common occurrence for Indian agents to assert in 
positive terms that the particular Indians of their agency have not been 
absent from their reservation, nor engaged in making war upon the Avhite 
men, when the contrary is well known to be true, that I deem it proper to in- 
troduce one of the many instances of this kind which have fallen under my ob- 
servation, as an illustration not only of hoAV the public in distant sections of the 
country may be misled and deceived as to the acts and intentions of tlie In- 
dians, but also of the extent to which the Indian agents themselves will j^ro- 
ceed in attempting to shield and defend the Indians of their particular agency. 
Sometimes, of course, the agent is the victim of deception, and no doubt con- 
scrientiously proclaims that which he firmly believes ; but I am forced by long 
experience to the opinion that instances of this kind are rare, being the excep- 
tion rather than the rule. In the example to Avhich I refer, the high character 
and distinction as well as the deservedly national reputation achieved by the 
official then in chax-ge of the Indians against whom we we'-e operating, will at 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 197 

once absolve me from the iniputatiou of intoj^tionally reflecting upon the in- 
tegrity of his action in the matter. T!ic only point to occasion surprise is how 
an officer possessing the knowledge of the Indian character, derived from an 
extensive experience on the frontier, Avhich General Ilazen could justly lay 
claim to, should be so far misled as to give the certificate of good conduct 
Avhich follows. General Ilazen had not only had superior opportunities for 
studying the Indian character, but had participated in Indian wars, and at the 
very time he penned the following note he was partially disabled from the ef- 
fects of an Indian wound. The Government had selected him from the large 
number of intelligent officers of high rank whose services were availal)le for 
the position, and had assigned him Avith plenary powders to the sui^erintenden- 
ey of the Soutliern Indian District, a position in which almost the entire con- 
trol of all the southern tribes was vested in the occupant. If gentlemen of 
the experience and military education of General Ilazen, occupying the inti- 
mate and official relation to tlie Indians which he did, could be so readily and 
completely deceived as to their real character, it is not strange that the mass 
of the people living far from the scene of operations, and only possessing 
such information as reaches them in scraps tln'ougli the public press, and 
generally colored by interested parties, should at times entertain extremely 
erroneous impressions regarding the much-vexed Indian question. Now to 
the case in point : 

With the Osage scouts who came back from the advance with the intelli- 
gence that a jmrty of Indians were in front, also came a scout Avlio stated that 
he was from Fort Cobb, and delivered to me a despatch, which read as follows : 

Headquarters Southern Indian District, Fort Cobb, 9 p. m. December 16, 1S68. 

To the Officer, commanding troops in the Field, 

Indians have just brousht in Avoi-fl tliat onr troops to-day reached the Washita some twenty 
miles above here. I send this to say that all the camps this side of the point reported to have been 
reached are friendlj^ and have not been on the war path this season. If this reaches you, it would 
be well to communicate at once with Satanta or Black Eagle, chiefs of the Kiowas, near where 
you now are, who will reailily inform you of tlie position of the Cheyeunes and Arrapahoes, also 
of my camp. Eespectfully, 

(Signed) W. B. Hazen, Brevet Major-General. 

This scout at the same time informed me that a large party of Kiowa war- 
riors, under Lone Wolf, Satanta, and otlier letiding chiefs, Avere Avithin less 
than a mile of my advance, and notwithstanding the above certificate regard- 
ing their friendly character, they had seized a scout Avho accompanied tlie 
bearer of the despatch, disarmed him, and held him a prisoner of Avar. Tak- 
ing a small party Avith me, I proceeded beyond our lines to meet the flag of 
truce. I was met by several of the leading chiefs of the KioAvas, including 
those above named. Large parties of their Avari-iors could be seen posted in 
the neighboring ravines and upon the surrounding hilltops. All Avere painted 
and plumed for Avar, and nearly all Avere armed with one rifle, tAvo revoh'ers, 
boAV and arroAV, some of their boAvs being strung, and their Avhole appearance 
and conduct plainly indicating that they had come for Avar. Their declara- 
tions to some of my guides and friendly Indians proved the same thing, and 
they Avere only deterred from hostile acts by discovering our strength to be far 
greater than they had imagined, and our scouts on the alert. Aside, hoAvever, 
from the question as to Avhat their present or future intentions Avere at that 
time, hoAV deserving Avere those Indians of the certificate of good behavior 
which they had been shreAvd enough to obtain? The certificate Avas dated De- 



198 LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

cember 16, and stated that the camps had not been on the war path "this sea- 
son." 

What wei'e the facts.'' On the 27th of November, only twenty-one days 
,? prior to the date of the certificate, the same Indians, wliose peaceable charac- 
ter was vouched for so strongly, had engaged in battle with my command by 
attacking it during the fight with Black Kettle. It was in their camp that the 
bodies of the murdered mother and child were found, and we had followed day 
by day the trail of the Kiowas and other tribes, leading us directly from the 
dead and mangled bodies of our comi'ades, slain by them a few daj's pre- 
vious, until we were about to overtake and punish the guilty parties, when 
the above communication was received, some forty or fifty miles from Fort 
Cobb, in the direction of tl>e Washita battle-ground. 

This, of itself, Avas conclusive evidence of the character of the tribes we 
were dealing with ; but aside from these incontrovertible facts, had additional 
evidence been needed of the openly hostile conduct of the Kiowas and Co- 
luanches, and of their active participation in the battle of the Washita, it is 
only necessary to refer to the collected testimony of Black Eagle and other 
leading chiefs. This testimony was written, and was then in the hands of the 
agents of the Indian Bureau. It was given voluntarily by the Indian chiefs 
referred to, and was taken down at the time by the Indian agents, not for the 
army, or with a view of furnishing it to ofiicors of the army, but simply for 
the benefit and infoi'mation of the Indian Bureau. This testimony, making 
due allowance for the concealment of much that Avould be prejudicial to the 
interests of the Indians, plainly states that the Kiowas and Comanches took 
part in the battle of tiie Washita: that the former constituted a portion of the 
war party whose trail I f(jllowed, and Avhich led my command into Black 
Kettle's village : and that some of the Kiowas remained in Black Kettle's vil- 
lage until the morning of the battle. 

This evidence is all contained in a report made to the Supei'intendent of 
Indian Afijiirs, by one Philip McCuskey, United States interpreter for the Kiowa 
and Comanche tribes. This report was dated Fort Cobb, December 3, while 
the communication from General Ilazen, certifying to the friendly disposition 
and conduct of these tribes, was dated at the same place thirteen da3's later. 
Mah-wis-sa also confirmed these statements, and pointed out to me, when near 
the battle-gi'ound, the location of Satanta's village;. It was from her, too, that 
I learned that it was in Satanta's village that the bodies of the white woman 
and child were found. As I pen these lines, the daily press contains frequent 
allusions to the negotiations which are being conducted between the Governor 
of Texas and the General Government, looking to tlie release of Satanta from 
the Texas penitentiary, to which institution Satanta, after a trial before the 
civil authorities for numerous murders committed on the Texas frontier, was 
sent three or four years ago to serve out a life sentence. 

After meeting the chiefs, who with their bands had approached our ad- 
vance under flag of truce, and compelling the release of the scout whom 
they had seized and held prisoner, we continued our mai'ch toward Fort Cobb, 
llie chiefs agreeing to ride with us and accompany my command to tliat place. 
Everj' assurance was given me that the villages to which these various chiefs 
belonged would at once move to Fcn-t CobI), and there encamp, thus separat- 
ing themselves from the hostile tribes, or those who preferred to decline this 
proposition of peace, and to continue to wage war; and as an evidence of the 
sincerity of their purpose, some eighteen or twenty of the most prominent 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 199 

chiefs, generally Kiowas, voluntarily proposed to accompany us during the 
march of that day and the next, by whicii time it was expected tliat the com- 
mand would reach Fort Cobb. The chiefs only requested that they might send 
one of their number, mounted on a fleet pony, to the villages, in order to 
hasten their movement to Fort Cobb. How eager for peace were these poor, 
confiding sons of the forest is the mental ejaculation of some of my readers, 
particularly if they are inclined to be converts to the humanitarian doctrines 
supposed to be applicable in the government of Indians. If I am addressing 
any of this class, for whose kindness of heart I have the utmost regard, I re- 
gret to be compelled to disturb the illusion. 

Peace Avas not included among the purposes which governed the chiefs 
who so freely and unhesitatingly proffered their company during our march to 
Fort Cobb. Nor had they the faintest intention of either accompanying us or 
directing their villages to proceed to the fort. The messenger whom they 
seemed so anxious to despatcli to the village was not sent to hasten the move- 
ment of their villages toward Fort Cobb, as claimed by them, but to hasten 
tlieir movement in a precisely opposite direction, viz., towards the head 
waters of Red river, near the northwestern limits of Texas. This sudden 
effusion of friendly sentiments rather excited my suspicions, but I was unable 
at first to divine the real intents and purposes of the chiefs. Nothing was to 
be done but to act so as to avoid exciting their suspicion, and trust to time to 
unravel the scheme. When we arrived at our camping ground, on the even- 
ing of that day, the chiefs requested permission to despatch another messen- 
ger to their people to inform them where we were encamped. To tliis propo- 
sition no objection Avas made. That evening I caused an abundant supply of 
provisions, consisting principally of beef, bread, coffee, and sugar, to be dis- 
tributed among them. In posting my pickets that night for tlie pi-otection of 
the camp, I arranged to have the reserve stationed within a short distance of 
the spot on which the chiefs were to encamp during the night, which point 
was but a few paces from my headquarters. Before retiring, I took Romeo, 
the interpreter, and strolled down to pay a visit to the cliiefs. The latter, af- 
ter the substantial meal in which they had just indulged, were seated, In- 
dian fashion, around a small fire, enjoying such comfort as was to be derived 
from the occasional whiffs of smoke wliich each in proper turn inlialed from 
the long-stemmed pipe of red clay that was kept passing from riglit to left 
around the circle. Their greeting of me was cordial in the extreme, but, as 
in tlie play — of "Richelieu," I believe — they "bowed too low." Throu'^h 
Romeo I chatted on indifferent subjects with the various chiefs, and from near- 
ly all of them received assurances of tlieir firmly fixed resolution to abandon 
forever the dangers and risks of the war path, to live no longer at variance 
with their white brothers, to eschew henceforth all such unfriendly customs 
as scalp-taking, murdering defenceless women and children, and stealing stock 
from the settlers of the frontier. All this was to be clianged in the future. 
It seemed strange, listening to these apparently "artless sons of nature." that 
men entertaining the ardent desire for repose which they professed, had not 
turned their backs on the war path long ago, and settled down to the quiet, 
enjoyment of the blessings of peace. But better that tliis conclusion should 
be arrived at late than not at all. The curtain had fallen from their eyes, 
and they were enabled to see everything in its proper light. To adopt their 
own language, " their hearts had become good," " their tongues had become 
straight," they had cast aside the bad ways in which they had so long strug- 



200 LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

gled unsuccessfully, and had now resolved to follow the white man's road, to 
adopt his mode of dress, till the soil, and establish schools for the education 
of their children, until in time the Avhite man and the red man Avould not 
only be brothers in name, but Avould be found travellinij the same road with 
interests in common. 

ILul I been a latter-day Peace Commissioner, I should have felt in duty 
bound to send a despatch to the chief of the proper bureau at Washington, in 
terms somewhat as follows : 

Hon John Smith, Secretary of the Department. 

I have just concluded a most satisfactory council with the Kiowa and other 
tribes, certain members of which have lately been accused of being more or 
less connected with the troubles lately occurring upon our frontier. All the 
prominent chiefs met me in council, and after a free interchange and expres- 
sion of opinions, I am happy to inform the Department that these chiefs, rep- 
resenting as they do one of the most powerful and important of the southern 
tribes, have voluntarily and solemnly agreed to cease all hostile acts against 
the white men, to prevent raids or war jjarties from being organized among 
their young men, to abandon for all future time the war path, and to come 
within the limits of their reservation, there to engage in the jjeaceful pursuits 
of civilized life. They express a warm desire to have educational facilities ex- 
tended them for the benefit of their children. As the season is far advanced, 
rendering it too late for them to successfully cultivate a crop the present yeax*, 
they ask, and I recommend, that provisions suflicient for their subsistence the 
present season be issued them. They also request that, owing to the scarcity 
of game, a few breech-loading arms be furnished them, say one rifle and one 
revolver to each male over fourteen j'ears of age. I am satisfied that this is a 
most reasonable request, and that the granting of it would go far to restore 
confidence in the good intentions of tlie Oovernment, as I am forced to remark 
that some of the recent acts of the military, such as the occurrence on the 
Washita, have done much to produce an unsettled feeling on the part of these 
untutored wards of the nation. Ko further anxiety need be felt as to the com- 
plete pacification of this tribe. I wish you might have shared Avith me the 
pleasure of listening to tliese untaught chieftains, begging for such assistance 
and guidance as would lead them in the paths of peace. I leave here on the 
— th, to visit the neighboring tribes, provided the military commander at this 
point will furnish me a suitable escort. 

I have the honor to be your obedient servant, 

Joh:^^ Jones, Indian Agent. 

P. S. — I have thought that if we could confer the ballot upon those of the 
chiefs and warriors who show the greatest aptitude and desire for peace, it 
might be a great step toward completing their civilization. Of course some 
line of distinction or qualification would have to be drawn; for example, 
confer the right of ballot upon all those who faithfully accept their rations from 
the Government for a period of six months. I merely throw tliis out for the 
consideration of the Department. 

J. J. 

Not being an orthodox Peace Commissioner, in good standing in that fra- 
ternity, I did not send a desiiateli of this character. What I did, however, an- 
swered every purpose. I went to the station of the guard n<(ar l:>y and di- 
rected the non-commissioned oflicer in charge to have his men keep a watch- 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 201 

fill eye upon tliose same " untutored sons of the foi'est,"' .is I felt confident their 
plans I)odod us no good. Romeo was also told to inform the chiefs that after 
the camp liad quieted down for the niglit, it would not be prudent for them to 
wander far from their camp lire, as the sentries might mi.^take them for ene- 
mies and fire upon them. Tliis I knew would make them hug their fire closely 
until morning. Before daylight we were again in the saddle and commenc- 
ing the last march necessary to take us to Fort Cobb. Again did it become 
important, in the opinion of the chiefs, to despatch another of their number 
to hurry up the people of tlieir villages, in order, as they said, that the vil- 
lages might arrive at Fort Cobb at the same time we did. As the march 
progressed tlusse applications became more frequent, until most of the chiefs 
had been sent away as messengers. I noticed, however, tliat in selecting 
those to be sent, the chiefs lowest in rank and importance were first chosen, so 
that those who remained were the highest. Wlien their numbers had dwindled 
down to less than half the original party, I saw that instead of acting in good 
faith this party of chiefs was solely engaged in the elfort to withdraw our at- 
tention from the villages, and, by an apparent ofler on their part to accom- 
pany us to Fort Cobb, where we were encouraged to believe the villages would 
meet us, prevent us from watching and fullowing the trail made by the lodges, 
which had already diverged from the direct route to Fort Cobb, the one 
the villages would have pursued had that fort been their destination. It 
became palpably evident that the Indians were resorting, as usual, to strata- 
gem to accomplish their purj^ose, which of course involved our deception. 
Fortunate!}' their purpose was divined in time to thwart it. As no haste was 
necessary, I permitted the remaining chiefs to continue the march with us, 
without giving them any grounds to suppose that we strongly doubted their 
oft-repeated assertions that tlieir hearts were good and their tongues were 
straight. Finall}', as our march for that day neared its termination and we 
were soon to reach our destination, the party of chiefs, which at first em- 
braced upwards of twenty, had become reduced until none remained except 
the two head chiefs. Lone Wolf and Satauta, and these no doubt were laugh- 
ing in their sleeves, if an Indian may be supposed to possess that article of ap- 
parel, at the happy and highly successful manner in Avhich they had hood- 
winked their white brethren. But had they known all that had been trans- 
piring they would not have felt so self-satisfied. As usual, quite a number of 
oflicers and orderlies rode at the head of the column, including a few of Gen- 
eral Sheridan's staff. 

As soon as the scheme of the Indians was discovered, I determined to seize 
the most prominent chiefs as hostages for the fulfilment of their promises re- 
garding the coming on of the villages ; but as for this purpose two hostages 
were as valuable as twentj', I allowed all but this number to take their di>part- 
ure apparently unnoticed. Finallj', when none but Lone Wolf and Satauta 
remained, and they no doubt were prepared with a plausible excuse to bid us 
in the most improved Kiowa au revoir, the officers just referred to, at a given 
signal, drew their revolvers, and Lone Wolf and Satanta were informed through 
Komeo that they were prisoners. 



XIX. 



"VTOT even the proverbial stoicism of the red man was sufficient to con- 
_LN ceal the chagi-in and disappointment recognizable in every lineament 
of the countenances of both Satanta and Lone Wolf when they discovered 
that all their efforts at deception had not only failed, but left them prisoners in 
our hands. Had we been in doubt as to whether their intention had really 
been to leave us in the lurch or not, all doubt would have been dispelled by a 
slight circumstance which soon after transpired. As I before stated, we had 
almost reached Fort Gobi), which was our destination for the time Ijcing, 
The chiefs who had already made their escape now became anxious in regard 
to the non-arrival in their midst of Satanta and Lone Wolf. The delay of 
the last two could not be satisfactorily accounted for. Something must have 
gone amiss. 

Again was stratagem resorted to. We were marching along without in- 
terruption or incident to disturb our progress, such of us as were at the 
head of the column keeping watchful eyes upon our two swarthy jjrisoners, 
wlio rode sullenly at our sides, and whose past career justified us in attrib- 
uting to them the nerve and daring necessary to induce an effort to secure 
their liberty should there be the slightest jjrobability of success. Suddenly 
a mounted Indian appeared far away to our right, and approached us at a gal- 
lop until almost within rifle range, when halting his well-trained pony upon a 
little hillock which answered his purpose, he gracefully detached tlie scar- 
let blanket he wore, and began waving it in a peculiar but regular man- 
ner. Both chiefs looked anxiously in the direction of the warrior, then merely 
glanced toward me as if to see if I had also observed this last arrival ; but too 
pi'oud to speak or prefer a request, they rode silently on, apparently indiffer- 
ent to what might follow. Turning to Romeo, who rode in rear, I directed 
him to inquire of the chiefs the meaning of the signals which the warrior was 
evidently endeavoring to convey to them. Satanta acted as sj^kesman, and 
replied that the warrior in sight was his son, and that the latter was signal- 
ling to him that he had something important to communicate, and desired 
Satanta to ride out and join him. 

To have seen the innocent and ai'tless expression of countenance with 
■which Satanta made this announcement, one would not have imagined that 
the son had been sent as a decoy to cover the escape of the father, and that 
the latter had been aware of this fact from the first. However, I pretended to 
humor Satanta. Of course there was no objection to his galloping out to 
where his son awaited him, because, as he said, that son was, and for good 
reason perhaps, unwilling to gallop in to where his father was. But if Sa- 
tanta was so eager to see and communicate with his son, there sliould be no 
objection to the presence of a small escort — not that tliere existed doubts in 
my mind as to Satanta's intention to return to us, because no such doubt ex- 
isted. I was positively convinced that once safely beyond our reach, the 
place at the head of the column, Avhich had known him for a few brief hours, 
would know him no more forever. I told Romeo to s:iy to Satanta that he 
might ride across the plain to where his son was, and not only that, but sev- 
eral of us would do ourselves the honor to volunteer as his escort. 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 203 

The most careless observer would have detected the air of vexation with 
■which Satanta turned his pony's head, and talcing me at my Avord started to 
meet his son. A brisk jjallop soon brougiit us to the little hillock upon whlcii 
Satanta's son awaited us. He was there, a tall, trimly built, warrior-like 
young fellow of perliaps twenty, and bore himself while in our i>resence as if 
he would have us to understand he was not only the son of a miglity chief, 
but some day would wear that title himself. What was intended to be gained 
by the interview did not become evident, as the presence of Romeo pre- 
vented any conversation between father and son looking to the formation of 
plans for escape. Questions were asked and answered as to where the village 
was, and in regard to its future movements, but nothing satisfactory eitlier to 
Satanta or his captors was learned from the young warrior. Finally, I sug- 
gested to Satanta that as we only intended to proceed a few miles further, 
being then in the near vicinity of Fort Cobb, and would there encamp for 
an indefinite period, his son had better accompany us to camp, where Lone 
Wolf and Satanta would be informed what was to be required of them and 
their people, and then, after conferring with each other, the two cliiefs could 
send Satanta's son to the village with any message which they miglit desire 
to transmit to their people. At the same time I promised the young warrior 
good treatment, with permission to go and come as he chose, and in no man- 
ner to be regarded or treated as a prisoner. 

This proposition seemed to strike the Indians favorably, and much to my 
surprise, knowing the natural suspicion of the Indian, the young warrior 
readily consented to the plan, and at once placed himself in our power. 
Turning our horses' heads, we soon resumed our places at the head of the 
column, the three Indians riding in silence, brooding, no doubt, over plans 
looking to their freedom. 

By way of a slight digression from the main narrative, I will here remark that 
during the prolonged imprisonment of the two cliiefs, Satanta's son became 
a regular visitor to our camp, frequently becoming the bearer of important 
messages from the chiefs to their villages, and in time he and I, appai'ently, 
became firm friends. He was an excellent shot with the rifle. Satanta said 
he was the best in the tribe, and frequently, when time hung heavily on my 
hands, and I felt a desire for recreation, he and I took our rifles, and, after pass- 
ing beyond the limits of camp, engaged in a friendly match at target prac- 
tice, a much more agreeable mode of testing our skill as marksmen than by 
using each other as a target. 

Satanta had exhibited no little gi'atification when I first engaged to shoot 
with his son, and as tlie lodge in which he was kept a closely guarded prisoner 
was on my route in returning from target practice to my tent, I usually stop- 
ped a few moments in his lodge to exchange passing remarks. He was evidently 
disappointed when informed as to the result of the first trial with our rifles, 
that his son had come oft* only second best ; and numerous were the exi^lana- 
tions which his fertile mind suggested as the causes leading to this result — a 
result Avhich in the eyes of the Indian assumed far greater importance than 
would ordinarily be attached to it by white men. As Ave had agreed to h:ive 
frequent contests of this kind, Satanta assured me that his son Avould yet pr(jve 
himself the better man. Each meeting, however, only resulted as the ^rst, 
although by varying the distance every opportunity was given for a fair test. 
Finally, when all other explanations had failed, Satanta thought he had discov- 
ered the real obstacle to the success of his son, by ascribing superior qualities to 
my rifle as compared with the one used by him. Fairness on my part then re- 



204 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

quired that I should oflfer the young warrior the use of my rifle, and that I 
sliould use his in tlie next matoli; a proposition which was at once accepted, 
and, as if to be better prepared to make an excellent score, my rifle was soon 
in liis Iiands and undergoing the critical inspection and manipulution of trig- 
ger, sights, etc., which alwaj-s suggest themselves the moment an experienced 
marksman finds a new rifle in his hands. The following day we engaged as 
usual in rifle practice, he with my rifle, I with Ids. I frankly confess that 
having entered into the contest from the first with as much zest and rivalry as 
even my dusky competitor could lay claim to, and having come off victor in 
the preceding contests, I was not entirely free from anxiety lest the change in 
rifles might also change the result, and detract, in the eyes of tlie Indians at 
least, from my former successes. On tins occasion, as on all previous ones, 
we were alone, and consequently we were our own judges, umpire, and 
referee. Greatly to my satisfaction, my good fortune enabled me to make 
a better score than did my opponent, and this result seemed to settle liis 
opinion finally as to our relative merits as marksmen. I attached no little 
importance to these frequent and friendly meetings between Satanta's son and 
myself. Any superiority in the handling or use of weapons, in horseback ex- 
ercises, or in any of the recognized manly sports, is a sure stepping-stone in 
obtaining for tlie possessor the highest regard of the red man. 

Upon our arrival at Fort Cobb, the day of the seizure of the two chiefs, 
Lone AVolf and Satanta, we selected a camp with a view of remaining at that 
point during tlie negotiations which were to be conducted with tlie various 
tribes who were still on tlie war path. So far as some of the tribes were con- 
cerned, they were occupying that equivocal position which enabled them to 
class tiiemselves as friendly and at the same time engage in hostilities. This 
may sound ambiguous, but is easily explained. The chiefs and old men, with 
the women and children of the tribe, were permitted to assemble regularly at 
the agency near Fort Cobb, and as regularly were bountifully supplied with 
food and clothing sufficient for all their wants ; at the same time tlie young 
men, warriors, and war chiefs of the tribe were almost continually engaged in 
making war upon the frontier of northern Texas and southeastern Kansas. 
Indeed, we established the fact, while at or near Fort Cobb, that while my 
command was engaged in fighting the warriors and chiefs of certain tribes at 
the battle of the Washita, the families of t'.iese same warriors and chiefs 
were being clothed and fed by the agent of the Government then stationed at 
Fort Cobb. 

Surprising as this may seem, it is not an unusual occurrence. The same 
system has prevailed during the past year. While my command was resist- 
ing the attacks of a large body of warriors on the Yellowstone river last sum- 
mer, tlie families of many of these warriors, the latter rei:)resenting seven 
tribes or bands, were subsisting upon provisions and clothed in garnients issued 
to them at the regular Indian agencies by the Government. But of this 
more anon. 

The three tribes which became at that time tlie special objects of our at- 
tention, and with whom we were particularly anxious to establish sucJi rela- 
tions as would prevent in the future a repetition of the murders and outrages 
of which they had so long been guiltj^ were the Kiowas, Cheyennes, and Ara- 
l)alioes; the object being to complete our work by placing these three tribes 
upon reservations where thej^ migiit be cared for, and at the same time be kept 
under proper surveillance. Tlie Washita campaign had duly impressed them 
with the power and purpose of the Government to inflict punishment upon all 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 205 

■\vlio cliose to make war ; and each tribe, dread inj? a repetition of the blow upon 
themselves, had removed their villages to remote points where they deemed 
themselves secure from further chastisement. Having Lone Wolf and Satanta, 
the two leading chiefs of the Kiowas, in our hands, we thought that through 
them the Kiowas could be forced to .a compliance with the just and reason- 
able demands of the Government, and with the terms of their treaty pro- 
viding for the reservation system. 

All demands upon the Kiowas were communicated by me to Lone Wolf 
and Satanta, under the instructions of General Sheridan, who, although on the 
ground, declined to treat directly with the faithless chiefs. The Kiowas were 
informed that unless the entire tribe repaired to the vicinity of the agency, 
then located not far from Fort Cobb, the war, which had been inaugurated 
with such vigor and effect at the Washita, would I)e renewed and continued 
until the terms of their treaty had been complied Avith. Tliis proposition Avas 
imparted to Lone Wolf and Satanta, and by them transmitted to their tribe, 
through tlie son of the latter, Avho acted as a sort of diplomatic couripr be- 
tween the KioAA'^a A'illage and our camp. 

Tiie Kiowas, Avhile sending messages apparently in accord Avith the propo- 
sition, and seeming to manifest a Avillingness to come in and locate themselves 
upon their reservation, continued, after the manner of Indian diplomacy, 
to defer from time to time the promised moA^ement. There Avas every reason 
to believe that, finding the military disposed to temporarily suspend active 
operations, and resort to negotiation, the Kiowas had located their A'illage 
Avithin a short distance of our camp, as Satanta's son, in going and coming 
Avith messages from one to the other, easily made the round journey in a 
single day; so that had tliey been so disposed, the Kiowas could have trans- 
ferred their village to our immediate vicinity, as desired by the military au- 
thorities, in one daj'. The trutli Avas, hoAvever, that Avhile manifesting an ai> 
parent desire to conform to this requirement, as a precedent to final peace, 
they had not intended at any time to keep faith Avith tlie Government, but, by 
a pretended acquiescence in the proposed arrangement, secure the release of 
the two head chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta, and then hasten, Avith the entire 
village, to join forces Avith the other two tribes, the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, 
who Avere then represented as being located somewhere near the source of 
Red river, and on the border of the Llano Estacado, or Staked Plain, a region 
of country supposed to be impenetrable by civilized man. Every promise of 
the Kiowas to come in Avas always made conditional upon the prior release 
of Lone Wolf and Satanta. 

Their efforts to procrastinate or evade a fulfilment of their part of the 
agreement finally exhausted the forbearance Avhich thus far had prompted 
none but the mildest measures on the part of the military authorities, in tlie 
efforts of the latter to bring about a peaceful solution of existing difficulties. 
It had become evident that, instead of intending to establish relations of per- 
manent peace and friendship Avith the Avhites, the majority of tlie tribe Avere 
only Avaiting the release of Lone Wolf and Satanta to resume hostilities, or at 
least to more firmly ally themselves Avith the extremely hostile tribes then oc- 
cupying the head Avaters of Red river. 

Spring was approaching, when the gi*ass would enable the Indians to re- 
cuperate their ponies, Avhich, after the famished (condition to Avhich Avinter 
usually reduced them, would soon be fleet and strong, ready to do duty on the 
war path. It was therefore indispensable that there should be no further delay in 
the negotiations, Avhich had been needlessly prolonged through several AveekSi 



206 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

General Sheridan promptly decided upon the terms of his ultimatum. Like 
most of tlie utterances of that officer, they were brief and to the point. I re- 
member tlie day and tlie circumstances under which tliey were given. Tlie 
General and myself were standing upon opposite sides of a rude enclosure 
Avliich surrounded the space immediately about liis tent, composed of a single 
line of rough poles, erected by the unskilled labor of some of the soldiers. 
The day was one of those bright, warm, sunshiny days so frequent in tlie 
Indian Territory, even in winter. I had left my tent, which was but a few 
paces from tliat of General Sheridan, to step over and report, as I did al- 
most daily, the latest message from the Kiowas as to their intention to make 
peace. On this occasion, as on all formel* ones, tliere was a palpable purpose 
to postpone further action until Lone Wolf and Satanta should be released by 
us. After hearing the oft-repeated excuses of the Kiowas, General Sheridan 
communicated his resolve to me in substance as follows: "Well, Custer, 
these Kiowas are endeavoring to play us false. Their object is to occupy us 
witli promises until the grass enables them to go where they please and 
make war if they choose. We have given them every opportunity to come in 
and enjoy the protection of the Government, if they so desired. Tliey are 
among the worst Indians Ave have to deal Avith, and have been guilty of 
untold murders and outrages, at the same time they were being fed and 
clotlied bj- the Government. Tliese two chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta, have 
forfeited their lives OA'^er and over again. They could now induce their i^eo- 
ple to come in and become friendly if tliey chose to exert their influence in 
that direction. This matter has gone on long enough, and must be stopped, 
as we have to look after the other tribes before spring overtakes us. You 
can inform Lone Wolf and Satanta that we shall wait until sundown to-mor- 
row for their tribe to come in ; if by that time the village is not here. Lone 
"Wolf and Satanta Avill be Imng, and the troops sent in pursuit of the village," 

Tills might be regarded as bringing matters to a crisis. I proceeded di- 
rectly to the lodge in which Lone Wolf and Satanta were prisoners, accompa- 
nied by Romeo as interpreter. I found the two chiefs reclining lazily upon 
their comfortable, if not luxui-ious couches of robes. Satan ta's son Avas also 
present. After a few preliminary remarks, I introduced the subject Avhich 
Avas tlie occasion of ni}^ visit, by informing the chiefs that I had just returned 
from General Sheridan's tent, where the question of the failure of the Kiowas 
to comply Avith their oft-repeated promises had been discussed, and that I had 
been directed to acquaint them Avith the determination which had been formed 
in regard to them and their people. At this announcement I could see that 
both chiefs became instantly and unmistakably interested in what Avas being 
said. 

I had so often heard of the proverbial stoicism of the Indian character, that 
it occurred to me that this was a favorable moment for judging how far this 
trait affects their conduct. For it will be readily acknowledged that the com- 
munication which I was about to make to them Avas one likely, at all events, 
to overturn any self-imposed stolidity which Avas not deeply impregnated in 
their nature. After going over the subject of the continued absence of the Ki- 
owas from their reservation, their oft-made promises, made onlj^ to be violated, I 
told them that they Avere regarded, as they had a riglit to be, as the two leading 
and most influential chiefs of the tribe ; that althougii they were prisoners, yet so 
poAverful Avere they among the people of their own tribe, that their influence, 
even Avjiile prisoners, Avas greater than that of all the other chiefs combined; 
hence all negotiations with the KioAvas had been conducted through them, and 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 207 

although they had it in their power, by a single command, to cause a 
satisfactory settlement of existing difficulties to be made, yet so far they had 
failed utterly to exert an influence for peace between their people and the 
Government. Tiie announcement then to be made to them must be regarded 
as final, and it remained with them alone to decide by their action what the 
result should be. In as few words as possible I then communicated to tliem 
the f:ite which undoubtedly awaited them in the event of the non-appear- 
ance of their tribe. Until sunset of the following day seemed a very brief 
period, yet I failed to detect the slightest change in the countenance of either 
when told that that would be the extent of their lives if their tribe failed to 
come in. Not a muscle of their warrior-like faces moved. Their eyes neither 
brightened nor quailed; nothing in their actions or appearance gave token 
that anything unusual had been communicated to them. Satanta's son alone 
of the three seemed to realize that matters were becoming serious, as could 
reaiHly be told by watching his anxious glances, first at his father, then at Lone 
Wolf; but neitlier spoke. 

Realizing the importance of time, and anxious to bring about a peaceful as 
well as satisfactory termination of our difficulties with tlie Kiowas, and at the 
same time to afi"ord evei-y facility to the two captive chiefs to save their oft- 
forfeited lives— for all flimiliar with their bloody and cruel career would grant 
that they merited death — I urged upon them the necessity of prompt action 
in communicating with their tribe, and pointed to Satanta's son, who could be 
employed for this purpose. Quickly springing to his feet, and not waiting to 
hear the opinions of the two chiefs, the young warrior rushed from the lodge, 
and was soon busily engaged in tightening the girths of his Indian saddle, 
preparatory to a rapid gallop on his fleet pony. 

In the mean time Lone Wolf and Satanta began exchanging utterances, at 
first slow and measui'ed, in tones scarcely audible. Gradually they seemed to 
realize how desperate was the situation they were in, and how mucli depended 
upon themselves. Then laying aside the formality which had up to tliat mo- 
ment characterized their deportment, they no longer appeared as the dignified, 
reserved, almost sullen chiefs, but acted and spoke as would be expected 
of men situated as they were. In less time than I have taken to describe 
the action, Satanta's handsome son appeared at the entrance of tlie lodge, 
mounted and in readiness for his ride. Although he seemed by his man- 
ner to incline toward his father as tlie one wiio should give him his in- 
structions, yet it was soon apparent that a more correct understanding ex- 
isted between the two captives. Lone Wolf w.as the head chief of their tribe, 
Satanta the second in rank. The occasion was too important to leave any- 
thing to chance. A message from Satanta might receive prompt attention ; a 
command from the head chief could not be disregarded ; hence it was that Sa- 
fcinta stood aside, and Lone Wolf stepped forward and addressed a few hasty 
but apparently emphatic sentences to the young courier, who was all eager- 
ness to depart on his mission. As Lone Wolf concluded his instructions, and 
the young warrior was gathering up his reins and lariat, and turning liis pony 
from the lodge in the direction of the village, Satanta simply added, in an en- 
ergetic tone, " Hoodle-teh, hoodle-teh" (make haste, make haste); an injunc- 
tion scarcely needed, as the young Indian and his pony Avei'e the next moment 
flying across the level plain. 

I then reentered the lodge with Lone Wolf and Satanta, accompanied by 
Romeo. Through tlie latter Lone Wolf informed me that he had sent orders 
to the Kiowa village, which was not a day's travel from us, to pack up and 



208 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

come in as soon as the courier shoitkl reacli tliem. At the same time lie in- 
formed them of what depended upon their coming. He had also sent for 
Blaclv Eagle, the third chief in rank, to come in advance of the village, bring- 
ing with him a dozen or more of the prominent chiefs. I inquired if he 
felt confident that his people would arrive by the appointed time? He almost 
smiled at the question, and assured me that an Indian would risk everything 
to save a comrade, leaving me to infer that to save their two highest chiefs 
nothing would be permitted to stand in tlie way. Seeing, perliaps, a look of 
doubt on my face, he pointed to that locality in the heavens which the sun 
would occup}' at two o'clock, and said, " Before that time Black Eagle and the 
other chiefs accompanying him will be here; and by that time," indicating in 
a similar manner sunset, "the village will arrive." 

No general commanding an army, who had transmitted his orders to liis 
cori^s commanders, directing a movement at daylight the following morning, 
could have exhibited more confidence in the belief that his orders would be 
executed, than did this captive chief in the belief that, although a prisoner in 
the hands of his traditional enemies, his lodge closely guarded on all sides by 
watcliful sentinels, his commands to his people would meet with a prompt and 
willing compliance. After a little further conversation with the two chiefs, I 
was preparing to leave the lodge, Avhen Lone Wolf, true to the Indian custom, 
under which an opportunity to beg for something to eat is never permitted to 
pass unimproved, called me back, and said that the next daj' his princii^al 
chiefs would visit him, and although he was a prisoner, yet he would be glad 
to be able to entertain them in a manner befitting his rank and importance in 
the tribe, and therefore I was appealed to to furnish the provisions necessary 
to provide a feast for a dozen or more hungry chiefs and their retainers; in 
rej)ly to which modest I'equest I made the heart of Lone Wolf glad, and called 
forth, in his most emphatic as well as delighted manner, the universal word 
of approval, "How," by informing him that the feast should certainly be pre- 
pared if he only Avould supply the guests. 

The next dtij was one of no little interest, and to none more than to the 
two chiefs, who expected to see the first step taken by their people Avhich 
would terminate in their release from a captivity which had certainly become 
exceedingly irksome, not to mention the new danger which stared them in 
the face. Lone Wolf, however, maintained his confidence, and repeatedly as- 
sured me during the forenoon that Black Eagle and the other chiefs, whom he 
had sent for by name, would arrive not later than two o'clock that day. Ilis 
confidence proved not to be misplaced. The sun had hardly marked the hour 
of one in the heavens, when a small cavalcade was seen approaching in the 
distance from the direction of the Kiowa village. The quick 63-0 of Satanta 
was the first to discover it. A smile of haughty triumph lighted up the coun- 
tenance of Lone AVolf when his attention was called to the approaching party, 
his look indicating that he felt it could not be otherwise : had he not ordered it? 

On they came, first about a dozen chiefs, riding at a deliberate and digni- 
fied pace, they and their ponies richly caparisoned in the most fantastic man- 
nei". The chiefs wore blankets of bright colors, scarlet i^redominatlng, with 
here and there a bright green. Each face Avas painted in brilliant colors, yel- 
low, blue, green, red, black, and combinations of all of them, no two faces 
being ornamented alike, and each new face seeming more horrible than its 
predecessor. The ponies had not been neglected, so far as their outward ' 
make-up was concerned, eagle feathers and pieces of gaudy cloth being in- 
terwoven in their manes and tails. Following the chiefs rode a second line. 



LIFE OX THE TLAIXS. 209 

only less ornamentetl than the cliiefs themselves. These were warriors and 
contulential friends and advisers of the chiefs in whose train they rode. In 
rear of all rode a few meek-looking squaws, whose part in this imposin<^ 
pageant became evident when the chiefs and warriors dismounted, giving 
the reins of tlieir ponies to the squaws, who at once busied themselves in 
jjicketing the ponies of their lords, and, in every sense of tlie Avord, mas- 
ters, wherever the grazing seemed freshest and most abundant. This being 
done, tlieir part was performed, and they waited, near the ponies, the re- 
turn of the cliiefs and warriors. Tlie latter, after forming in one group, 
and in similar order to that in which they rode, advanced toward the lodge 
outside of which, but within the chain of sentinels, stood Lone Wolf and Sa- 
tanta. The meeting between the captive chiefs and their more fortunate com- 
rades occasioned an exhibition of more feeling and sensibility than is generally 
accredited to the Indian. A bevy of school girls could not have embraced 
each other, after a twenty-four hours' separation, with greater enthusiasm and 
demonstrations of apparent joy than did these chieftains, whose sole delight is 
supposed to be connected with scenes of bloodshed and cruelty. I trust no 
gentle-minded reader, imbued with great kindness of heart, -will let this little 
scene determine his estimate of the Indian cliaracter; for be it understood, 
not one of the chiefs Avho formed the group of which I am writing but had 
participated in acts of the most barbarous and wanton cruelty. It was a por- 
tion of these chiefs who had led and encouraged the band that had subjected 
the Box family to such a horrible fate, of which Major-General Hancock made 
full report at the time. 

Immediately after greetings had been exchanged between the captives and 
their friends, I was requested, by a message from Lone Wolf, to repair to his 
lodge in order to hear Avhat his friends had to say. As I entered the lodge 
the entire party of chiefs advanced to meet me, and began a series of hand- 
shaking and universal " Hows," which in outward earnestness made up for 
any lack of real sincerity, and to an inexperienced observer or a tender-hearted 
peace commissioner might well have appeared as an exhibition of indubitable 
friendship if not affection. After all Avore seated, and the ever-present long 
red clay pipe had passed and repassed around the circle, each chief indulging 
in a few silent Avhiffs, Black Eagle arose, and after shaking hands with me, 
proceeded, after the manner of an oration, to inform me, what I had had reason 
to expect, and what the reader no doubt has also anticipated, that the entire 
Kiowa village was at that moment on tiie march, and would arrive in the vi- 
cinit}' of our camp before dark. No reference was made to tlie fact that this 
general movement on their part was one of compulsion, but on the contrary, 
to have heard Black Eagle, who was an impressive orator, one might well 
liave believed that, no longer able to endure the separation from their brothers, 
the Avhite men, who, as Black Eagle said, like themselves Avere all descended 
from one father, the Kiowas had voluntarily resolved to pack up their lodges, 
and Avhen they next should put them down it would be alongside the tents of 
their white friends. 

In nothing tliat Avas said did it appear that the impending execution of 
Lone Wolf and Satanta had aught to do Avith hastening the arrival of their 
people. At the termination of the conference, however. Black Eagle inti- 
mated that as the tribe aams about to locate near us, it Avonld be highly agree- 
able to tliem if their two head chiefs could be granted their liberty and per- 
mitted to resume their places among their oAvn people. 

That evening the Kiowa village, true to the prediction of Lone Wolf, ar- 



210 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

rived, and was located a short distance from our camp. The next morning 
the family or families of Sataata appeared in front of headquarters and made 
known their desire to see Satauta, to which, of course, no objection was made, 
and the guards were instructed to permit tliem to i)a3S the lines. Satanta's 
home circle was organized somewhat on the quadrilateral plan ; that is, he had 
four wives. They came together, and, so far as outward api)earances enabled 
one to judge, they constituted a hapjiy ftimily. They were all young and bux- 
om, and each was sufficiently like the others in appearance to have enabled 
the lot to pass as sisters ; and, by the way, it is quite customarj' among the 
Indians for one man to marry au entire family of daughters as rai)idly 
as they reach the proper age. To those who dread a uniltiplicity of mo- 
thers-in-law this custom possesses advantages. To add in a material as well 
as maternal way to the striking similarity in ai^iDenrance presented by Sa- 
tanta's dusky spouses, each bore on her back, encased in the capacious folds 
of a scarlet blanket, a pledge of affection in the shape of a papoose, the differ- 
ence in the extreme ages of tlie four miniature warriors, or warriors' sisters, 
being too slight to be perce^jtible. In single file the four partners of Satanta's 
joys approached his lodge, and in tlie same order gained admittance. Satanta 
was seated on a buffalo robe when they entered. He did not rise — perhaps 
that would have been deemed unwarriorlike — but each of his wives advanceil 
to him, when, instead of going through the ordinary form of embracing, witli 
its usual accompaniments, on such occasions considered proper, the papoose 
was unslung — I know of no better term to describe the dexterous manner in 
which the mother transferred her offspring from its cosey resting-place on her 
back to her arms — and handed to the outstretched arms of the father, who 
kissed it repeated!}', with every exhibition of paternal affection, scarcely deign- 
ing to bestow a single glance on the mother, who stood by meekly, content- 
ing herself with stroking Satanta's face and shoulders gently, at the same 
time muttering almost inaudible expressions of Indian endearment. This 
toui-hing little scene lasted for :•. few moments, when Satanta, after bestowing 
a kiss upon the soft, cherrj'' lips of his child, transferred it back to its mother, 
who passed on and quietly took a seat by Satanta's side. Tlie second wife 
then ajjproached, when precisely the same exhibition was gone through with, 
not being varied from the first in the slightest particular. This being ended, 
the third took the place of the second, the latter passing along with her babe 
and seating herself next to tlie first, and so on, until the fourth wife had pre- 
sented her babe, received it back, and quietlj' seated herself by the side of the 
tliird ; not a word being spoken to or by Satanta from the beginning to the 
end of this strange meeting. 

The Kiowas were now all located on ihciir reservation except a single band 
of the tribe, led by a very wicked and troublesome chief, named Woman. 
Heart, altliongh his conduct and chara(!ter were anything but in keeping with 
the gentleness of his name. He had taken his I)and and moved in the direc- 
tion of the Staked Plains, far to the west of the Kiowa reservation. 

However, tlie Indian question, so far .as the Kiowas were concerned, was 
regarded as settled, at least for the time being, and it became our next study 
how to effect a similar settlement with tlie Cheyennes and Arai^ahoes, who 
had fled after the battle of the Washita, and were then supposed to be sonie- 
wliere between the Witehit;* mountains and the western border of Texas, north 
of the head waters of Red river. It was finally decided to send one of the 
friendly chiefs of the Apaches, whose village was then near the present site 
of Fort Sill, and one of the three captive squaws whom we had brought with r*- 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 211 

All the chiefs of that region who were interested in proraotinj? peace be- 
tween the whites and Indians were assembled at my headquarters, when I in- 
formed them of the proposed peace embassj', and asked that some ciiief of 
prominence should volunteer as bearer of a friendly message to the Cheyennes 
and Arapalioes. A well-known chief of the Apaches, named Iron Shirt, 
i)romi)tIy t)frered himself as a messenger in the cause of peace. In reply to 
[my inquiry, he said lie could be ready to depart upon his commendable er- 
rand the following day, and estimated the distance such tiiat it would be ne- 
cessary to take provision sufficient to last him and his companion three weeks. 
Having arranged all the details of the journey, the assemblage of chiefs dis- 
persed, the next step being to decide which of the three squaws should accompany 
Iron Shirt to her tribe. I concluded to state the case to them, and make the se- 
lection a matter for them to decide. Summoning Mah-wis-sa, Mo-nah-see-tah, 
and the Sioux squaw, their companion, to my tent, I, througli Romeo, acquainted 
tliem with the desire of the Government to establish peace with their people and 
with the Arapalioes, and in order to accomplish this we intended despatching a 
friend)}' message to the absent tribes, wliich must be carried by some of their 
own people. After conferring with each other a few minutes, they concluded 
that ^lali-wis-sa, the sister of Black Kettle, should return to her people. Every 
arrangement was provided, looking to the comfort of tiie two Indians Avho 
Aven; to undertake this long journey. A bountiful supply of provisions was 
carefull}' provided in convenient packages, an extra amount of clotliing and 
blankets being given to Mah-wis-sa in order that slie sliould not return to her 
people empty-handed. To transport their provisions and blankets a mule was 
given them to be used as a pack-animal. It was quite an event, sufficient to 
disturb the monotony of camp, when tlie hour ai'rived for the departure of the 
t\vo peace commissioners. I had told Iron Shirt what he was to say to the chiefs 
of the tribes who still remained hostile, which was in effect that we were anx- 
ious for peace, and to that end invited them to come at once and place them- 
selves and their people on the reservations, where we would meet and regard 
tiiem as friends, and all present hostilities, as well as reckoning for past difier- 
euces, should cease ; but if this friendly profter was not accepte<l favorably and 
at once, we would be forced to regard it as indicating their desire to prolong 
tlie Avar, in which event the troops would be sent ag:iinst them as soon as 
practicable. I i-elied not a little on tlie good influence of Mah-wis-sa, who, as 
I have before stated, was a woman of superior intelligence, and was strongly 
impressed with a desire to aid in establisliing a peace l)etween her people and 
the white men. Quite a group, composed of officers, soldiers, teamsters, 
guartls, and scouts, assemijled to witness the depai'ture of Iron Shirt and Mah- 
wis-sa, and to wish them God-speed in their mission. 

After Iron Shirt and Mah-wis-sa had seat, d themselves upon their ponies 
and were about to set out, Mjih-wis-sa, suddenly placing her hand on tlie neat 
belt which secured her blanket about her, indicated that she was unprovided 
Willi that most essential comptmion of frontier life, a mutch-ka as she ex- 
pressed it, meaning a hunting-knife. Only those who have lived on the 
pliiiis can appreciate the unpurchasable convenience of a hunting-knife. 
Whether it is to c:irve a buft'alo or a mountain trout, mend horse equipments, 
or close up a rent in the tent, there is a constant demand for the services of £\ 
good Iiunting-knife. Mah-wis-sa smiled at the forgetfulness which had made 
her fail to discern this omission sooner, but I relieved her anxiety by taking 
from mj" belt the hunting-knife which hung at my side and giving it to her, 
adding as I did so that I expected her to return it to me before the change in 



2ia: LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

tlie moon, that being fixed as the extreme limit of Iheir absence. Wlien all 
■was really for the start, Iron Shirt rode first, followed by the pack-mule, which 
he led, while Mah-wis-sa, acting as a driver to the latter and well mounted, 
brouglit up the rear. 

As they rode away amid the shower of good wishes which was bestowed 
upon them and their mission, many were the queries as to the probable extent 
of their journey, their return, and whetlier they would be successful. For 
upon the success or failure of tliese two Indians depended in a great measure 
the question whether or not we were to be forced to continue the war; and 
among the hundreds who watched tlie departing bearers of the olive branch, 
there was not one but hoped earnestly tliat the mission would i^rove success- 
ful, and we be spared the barbarities wliich a further prosecution of the war 
would necessarily entail. Yet there are those who would have the public be- 
lieve that the army is at all times clamorous for an Indian war. I have yet 
to meet the officer or man belonging to the army, wlio, when the question of 
war or peace witli the Indians was being agitated, did not cast the weight of 
his influence, the prayers of iiis heart, in behalf of peace. When I next called 
Mah-wis-sa's attention to the mutch-ka (knife), it was far from the locality we 
then occupied, and under veiy different circumstances. 

After the departure of Iron Shirt and Mah-wis-sa, we were forced to settle 
down to the dullest routine of camp life, as nothing could be done until their 
return. It was full three weeks before the interest in camp received a fresh 
hupetus, by the tidings, whicli flew from tent to tent, that Iron Shirt had re- 
turned. He did return, but Mali-wis-sa did not return with him. His story 
was brief. He and Mah-Avis-sa, after leaving us and travelling for several days 
westward, had arrived at the Cheyenne and Arapaho villages. They deliv- 
ered tlieir messages to tlie chiefs of the two tribes, who were assembled in 
council to hear them, and after due deliberation thereon. Iron Shirt was in- 
formed that the distance was too great, the ponies in too poor condition, to 
permit the villages to return. In other words, these two tribes had virtually 
decided that rather than return to their reservation they preferred the chances 
of war. When asked to account for Mah-wis-sa's failure to accompany him 
back, Iron Shirt stated that she had desired to fulfil her promise and return 
with him, but the chiefs of her tribe would not permit her to do so. 

Tiie only encouragement derived from Iron Shirt was in his statement 
that Little Ilobe, a prominent chief of the Cheyennes, and Yellow Bear, the 
second chief of the Arapahoes, were both extremely anxious to effect a per- 
manent peace between tlieir people and the Government, and both had prom- 
ised Iron Shirt that they would leave their villages soon after his depart- 
ure and visit us, with a view to prevent a continuation of the war. Iron Sliirt 
was rewarded for his journey by bountiful presents of provisions for himself 
and his people. True to their promises made to Iron Sliirt, it was but a siiort 
time before Little Robe and Yellow Bear arrived at our camp and were well 
received. 

They reported that their villages had had under consideration the question 
of accepting our invitation to come in and live at peace in tlie future, and that 
many of tlieir people were stronglj' in favor of adojjting this course, but for 
the present it was uncertain whether or not the two tribes would come in. 
The two tribes would probably act in concert, and if tliey intended coming, 
would make their determination known by despatching couriers to us in a few 
days. In spite of the sincerity of the motives of Little Robe and Yellow Bear, 




YELLOW BEAR. SECOND CHIEF OF THE ARAPAHOES. 



# 



LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 213 

whom T Iiave always refjardod as two of the most upright and peaceably in- 
clined Indians I have ever known, and who have since that time paid a 
visit to the President at Washington, it was evident tiiat the Cheyennes and 
Arapahoes, while endeavoring to occupy us with promises and pretences, were 
only interested in delaying our movements until the return of spring, when 
the young grass would enable them to recruit the strength of their winter- 
famished ponies and move when and where they pleased. 

After waiting many long weary days for the arrival of the promised couriers 
from the two tribes, until even Little Robe and Yellow Bear were forced to 
acknowledge that there was no longer any reason to expect their coming, it 
occurred to me that there was but one expedient yet untried which furnished 
even a doubtful chance of averting war. This could only be resorted to 
with the approval of General Sheridan, whose tent had been pitched in our 
midst during the entire winter, and who evidently proposed to remain on the 
ground until the Iiulian question in that locality should be disposed of. My 
plan was as fallows: 

We had some fifteen hundred troops, a force ample to cope with all the 
Indians which could then, or since, be combined at any one point on the 
jjlains. But in the state of feeling existing among those Indians at that time, 
consequent upon the punishment which they had received at and since the Wa- 
shita camjjaign, it would have been an extremely difficult if not impractica- 
ble matter to attempt to move so large a body of troops near their villages, 
and retain the latter in their places, so fearful were they of receiving punish- 
ment for their past offences. It would also have been impracticable to 
move upon them stealthily, as they were then, for causes already given, more 
than ever on the alert, and were no doubt kept thoroughly informed in regard 
to our every movement. 

It was thus considered out of the question to employ my entire command 
of fifteen hundred men in Avhat I proposed should be purely a peaceful efi'ort 
to bring about a termination of the war, as so large a force would surely 
intimidate the Indians, and cause them to avoid our presence. 

I believed that if I could see the leading chiefs of the two hostile tribes and 
convince them of the friendly desire of the Government, they might be in- 
duced to relinquish tlie war and return to their reservation. I have endea- 
vored to show that I could not go among them with my entire command, 
neither was I sufficiently orthodox as a peace commissioner to believe what 
so many of that order preach, but fail to practise, that I could take an olive 
branch in one hand, the plan of a school-hoiise in the other, and, unaccompa- 
nied by force, visit the Indian villages in safety. My life would certainly 
have been the price of such temerity. Too imposing a force would repel the 
Indians; too small a force would tempt them to murder us, even though our 
mission was a fi-iendly one. 

After weighing the matter carefully in mj own mind, I decided that with 
General Sheridan's approval I would select from my command forty men, two 
officers, and a medical officer, and, accompanied by the two chiefs. Little Robe 
and Yellow Bear, who regarded my proposition with favor, I would set out* 
in search of the hostile camp, there being but little doubt that with the assist- 
ance of the chiefs I would have little difficulty in discovering the whereabouts 
of the villages; while the smallness of my party would prevent unnecessary 
alarm or suspicion as to our intentions. From my tent to Genei'al Sheridan's 
was but a few steps, and I soon submitted my proposition to the General, who 



214 LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

from the first was inclined to lend his approval to nij^ project. After discnss- 
iiig it fully, he j^ave his assent by saying that the character of the proposed 
expedition was such that he would not order me to proceed upon it, but if I 
volunteered to go, he would give me the full sanction of his authority and 
every possible assistance to render the mission a successful one; in conclusion 
urging me to exercise the greatest caution against the stratagems or treachery 
of the Indians, who no doubt would be but too glad to massacre ni}' party in 
revenge for their recent well-merited chastisement. Returning to my tent, I 
at once set about mailing preparations for my journey, the extent or result tif 
Avhich now became interesting subjects for deliberation. The lirst thing ne- 
cessary was to make up the party which was to accompany me. 

As the number of men was to be limited to forty, too much care could not 
be exercised in their selection. I chose the great majority of them from the 
sharpshooters, men who, in addition to being cool and brave, were experi- 
enced and skilful marksmen. My standard-bearer, a well-tried sergeant, Avas 
selected as the senior non-commissioned officer of the party. The officers 
who were to accompany me were my brother Colonel Custer, Captain Kob- 
bins, and Dr. Renick, Acting Assistant Surgeon U. S. Army. As guide I had 
Ne-va, a Blackfoot Indian, who had accompanied General Fremont in his ex- 
plorations, and who could speak a little English. Little Robe and Yellow 
Bear were also to be relied upon as guides, while Romeo accompanied us as 
interpreter. Young Brewster, determined to miss no o^jportunity of discov- 
ering his lost sister, had requested and been granted permission to become one 
of the party. This completed the persoimel of the expedition. All were well 
armed and well mounted. We were to take no wagons or tents; our extra 
supplies were to be transported on pack-mules. We were to start on the even- 
ing of the second day, the intervening time being necessary to complete our 
preparations. It was decided that our first march should be a short one, suffi- 
cient merely to enable us to reach a village of friendly Apaches, located a few 
miles from our camp, where we would spend the first night and be joined 
by Little Robe and Yellow Bear, who at that time were guests of the Apaches. 
I need not say that in the opinion of many of our comrades our mission was 
regarded as closely bordering on the imprudent, to qualify it by no stronger 
term. 

So confident did one of the most prudent officers of my command feel in 
regard to our annihilation by tlie Indians, that in bidding me good-by he con- 
trived to slip into my hand a small pocket Derringer pistol, loaded, with the 
simple remark, " You had better take it. General ; it may prove useful to you." 
As I was amply provided with arms, both revol'^ers and rifle, and as a pocket 
Derringer may not impress the reader as being a very formidable weapon to 
use in Indian warfare, the purpose of my friend in giving me the small pocket 
wea[)()n may not seem clear. It was given me under the firm conviction that 
the Indians would overwhelm and massaci'e my entire pai'ty; and to prevent 
iny being captured, disarmed, and reserved for torture, that little pistol was 
given me in order that at the last moment I might become my own execution- 
er — an office I was not seeking, nor diil I share in my friend's opinion. 

Everything being re.idy for our departure, we swung into our saddles, 
waved our adieus to tlie comrades who were to remain in cam}?, and the next 
moment we turned our horses' heads westward and were moviug in tlie ilirec- 
tion of the Apache village. 



XX. 



rrrilE Apaoho village had been represented as located only five or six milesj 
JL from our camp, but we found the distance nearly twice as great; and al- 
thougii we rode rapidly, our horses beiuj^ fresh, yet it was quite dark before 
■\ve readied the first lodge, tlie location of the rest of the village being tolera- 
bly well defined by the api)arently countless dogs, whose barking at our ap- 
proach called forth most of the inliabitants of the village. 

As our coming had been previously announced by Little Robe and Yellow 
Bear, our arrival occasioned no suri^rise. Inquiring of the first we saw 
where the stream of water was, as an Indian village is invariably placed 
in close proximity to water, we were soon on our camp ground, which was 
almost within tlie limits of the village. Our horses were soon unsaddled and 
picketed out to graze, fires were started by tlie men preparatory to the en- 
joyment of a cup of cofiee, and every preliminary made for a good night's 
rest and early stjirt in the morning. But here the officers of the pai-ty en- 
countered their first drawback. From some unexplained cause the pack-mule 
which carried our blankets had with his attendant failed thus far to put in 
an appearance. His head leader had probably fallen behind, and in the 
darkness lost the party. The bugler was sent to a neigliboring eminence to 
sound signals with his bugle, in the hope that the absent man with his mule 
miglit make his way to us, but all to no purpose. We were soon forced to 
relinquish all hope of seeing either man, mule, or lilankets until daylight, 
and consequently the prospect of enjoying a comfortable rest was exceed- 
ingly limited. Saddle blankets were in great demand, but I was even more 
fortunate. A large number of tlie Apaches had come from their lodges out of 
mere curiosity to see us, hoping no doubt too that they miglit secure some- 
thing to eat. Among them was one with whom I was acquainted, and to 
whom I made known the temporary loss of my blankets. By promising him 
a pint of sugar and an equal amount of coflbe on my return to my camp, he 
agreed to loan me a bufialo robe until morning. "With this wrapped around 
me and the aid of a bright blazing camp fire, I passed a most comforhible 
night among my less fortunate companions, as we all lay stretched out on the 
ground, using our saddles for pillows. 

Early next morning (our pack animals having come up in the night) we 
were in our saddles, and on our way ready and eager for whatever miglit be 
in store for us. The route taken by the guides led us along the northern 
border of the Witchita ^lountains, our general direction being nearly due west. 
A brief description of these mountains and of the surrounding scenery is con- 
tained in the first chapter of " Life on the Plains." As soon as it had become 
known in the main camp that the expedition of which I now write was con- 
templated, young Brewster, who had never relinquished his efi"orts or inqui- 
ries to determine the fate of his lost sister, came to me with an earnest re- 
quest to be taken as one of the party — a request wliich I was only too gl:id to 
comply with. No person who has not lived on the frontier and in an Indian 
country, can correctly realize or thoroughly appreciate the extent to which a 
frontiersman becomes familiar with, and apparently indiflerent to the accus- 
tomed dangers which surround him on every side. It is but another verifica- 
tion of the truth of the old saying, *' Familiarity breeds contemiJt." 



216 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

After getting well on our way I began, through Romeo, conversing with 
the two chiefs Little Robe and Yellow Bear, who rode at my side, upon tlio 
topic wliich was uppermost in tlie minds of the entire party: Wlien and wliere 
sliould we probal)ly find their people? Before our departure tliey had given 
me to understand tliat tlie villages might be found on some one of tl)e small 
streams flowing in a southerly direction past the western span of the Witchita 
mountains, a distance from our main camp not exceeding sixty or seventy 
miles; l)ut I could easily perceive that neither of the chiefs spoke with a great 
degree of confidence. They explained this by stating that the villages would 
not remain long in one place, and it was difficult to say positively in what lo- 
cality or upon what stream we should find them ; but that when we reached 
the last peak of the Witchita mountains, Avhich commanded an unlimited view 
of the plains beyond, they would send up signal smoke, and perhaps be able to 
obtain a I'eply from the village. 

In the evening we reached a beautiful stream of water, with abundance 
of wood in tlie vicinity ; here w^e halted for the night. Our horses were fast- 
ened to the trees, while tlie officers and men spread their blankets on the 
ground, and in groups of twos and tlirees prepared for tlie enjoyment of a 
good niglit's rest. One sentry remained awake during the night, and in order 
that the loss of sleep should be as little as might be consistent with our safet)', 
the relief, instead of being composed of three men, each of whom would have 
to remain on duty two hours for every four hours of rest, Avas increased in 
number so that each member thereof was required to remain on post but a 
single hour during the night. Wliile I felt confidence in the good intentions 
of tlie two chiefs, I did not neglect to advise the guards to keep a watchful 
eye upon them, as we could not att'ord to run any avoidable risks. Long after 
we had sought the solace of our blankets, and I liad dropped into a comforta- 
ble doze, I was awakened by an Indian song. Tliere Avas, of course, no occa- 
sion for alarm from this incident, yet it Avas sufiicient to induce me to get up 
and make my Avay to the small fire, around Avhieh I knew the three Indians 
and Romeo to be lying, and from the vicinity of Avhich the singing evidently 
came. As I approached the fire I found Neva, the Blackfoot, replenishing the 
small flame Avith a few dried twigs, Avhile Romeo and Yellow Bear Avere sit- 
ting near by enjoying some Avell-ln"oiled beef ribs. Little Robe Avas reclin- 
ing, in a half-sitting position, ag.iinst a tree, and, ajiparently oblivious to the 
presence of his companions, Avas singing or chanting an Indian melody, the 
general tenor of Avhieh seemed to imlieate a lightness of spirits. Young 
Jlrewster — unable, perhaps, to sleep, oAA'ing to thoughts of his lost sister— had 
joiijed the group, and appeared an interested observer of Avhat Avas going on. 
I inquired of Romeo wliy Little Robe had selected such an unreasonable hour 
to indulge in his wild melodies. Romeo repeated the inquiry to Little Robe, 
who r^qjlled tliat he had been away from his lodge for a long time, and the 
thought of Soon returning, and of being Avith his people once more, had filled 
his licjut Avith a gladness Avhich could only find utterance in song. 

Taking a seat on the ground by the side of young Brewster, I joined the 
group. As neitiier Little Robe nor YelloAv Bear could understand aAvord of 
Engli*li, and Neva Avas busily engaged Avith Ills culinary operations, young 
Brewster, with unconcealed delight, informed me that from conversations Avith 
Little Robe. avIio appeared in a more communicative mood than usual, he felt 
choered by the belief that at last he Avas in a fair Avay to discover tlif; where- 
abouts of his captive sister. He then briefly detailed hoAv Little Robe, little 



Mr LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 217 

dreaming: that his listener was so deeply interested in his words, liad admit- 
ted that the Cheyennes had two white <rirls as prisoners, the date of the cap- 
ture of one of tlieni and the personal description given by Little Robe closely 
answering to that of Brewster's sister. In the hope of gleaning other valu- 
able information from time to time, I advised the young man not to acquaint 
the Indians with the fact that he had lost a sister by capture; else, becoming 
suspicious, the supply of information miglit be cut off. 

Tlie tidings in regard to the captured girls were most encouraging, and spur- 
red us to leave no effort untried to release them from the horrors of their sit- 
uation. Befoi'e daylight the following morning we had breakfasted, and as 
soon as it was sufficiently light to enable us to renew our march we set out, 
still keeping almost due Avest. In the afternoon of that day Ave readied the 
last prominent jDcak of the Witchita mountains, from Avhich point Little Robe 
and Yellow Bear had said tliey Avould send up a signal smoke. 

I had often during an Indian campaign seen tliese signal smokes, on my 
front, on my right and left — everywhere, in fact — but could ncA'er catch a 
glimpse of the Indians Avho Avere engaged in making them, nor did I compre- 
hend at the time the precise import of the signals. I Avas glad, therefore, to 
have an opportunity to stand behind the scenes, as it Avere, and not only Avit- 
ness the inodus operandi, but understand the purpose of the actors. 

Arriving at the base of the mountain or peak, the height of Avhich did 
not exceed one thousand feet, Ave dismounted, and leaving our horses on the 
plain beloAV, owing* to the rough and rocky character of the ascent, a small 
portion of our party, including of course, the two chiefs, climbed to the sum- 
mit. After SAveeping the broad horizon Avhich spread out before us, and fail- 
ing to discoA'er any evidence of the presence of an Indian village anvAvhere 
within the scope of our vision, the two chiefs set about to make jjreparations 
necessary to enable them to " call to the village," as they expressed it. 

I have alluded in a former article to the perfect system of signals in use 
among the Indians of the plains. That Avhich I am about to describe briefly 
was but one of many employed by them. First gathering an armful of dried 
grass and Aveeds, this Avas carried and placed upon the highest point of the 
peak, Avhere, everything being in readiness, the match Avas applied close to 
the ground ; but the blaze Avas no sooner Avell lighted and about to envelop 
the entire amount of grass collected, tlnm Little Robe began smothering it 
with the unlighted portion. This accomplished, a slender column of gray 
smoke began to ascend in a perpendicular column. This, hoAvever, Avas not 
enough, as such a signal, or the appearance of such, might be created by 
white men, or might rise from a simple camp fire. Little Robe noAV took his 
scai'let blanket from his shoulders, and Avith a graceful Avave thrcAV it so as 
to cover the smouldering grass, Avhen, assisted by YelloAV Bear, he held the 
corners and sides so closely to the ground as to almost completely confine and 
cut off the column of smoke. Waiting but for a few moments, and until he 
saAV the smoke beginning to escape from beneath, he suddenly threw the 
blanket aside, and a beautiful balloon shaped column puffed upAvard, like tlie 
white cloud of smoke Avhich attends tlie discharge of a field j^iece. 

Again casting the blanket on the pile of grass, the column Avas interrupted 
as before, and again in due time released, so that a succession of elongated, 
egg-shaped puffs of smoke kept ascending toAvard the sky in the most regular 
manner. This beadlike column of smoke, considering the height from Avhich 
it began to ascend, Avas visible from points on the level plain fifty miles dis- 
tant. 



218 MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

The sight of these two Indian cliiefs so intently engaged in this simple but 
effective mode of telegraphing was to me full of interest, and this incident 
was vividly I'ecalled when I came across Stanley's painting of "The Signal," 
in which two chiefs or warriors are standing upon a large rock, with lighted 
torch in hand, while far in the distance is to be seen the answering column, 
as it ascends above the tops of the trees, from the vallej- where no doubt the 
village is 2'leasantly located. In our case, however, the picture was not so 
complete in its results. For strain our eager eyes as we might in every di- 
rection, no responsive signal could be discovered, and finally the chiefs were 
I'cluctantly forced to acknowledge that the villages were not where they ex- 
pected to find them, and that to reach them would probably involve a longer 
journey than we had anticipated. Descending fnmi the mountain, we continued 
our Journey, still directing our course nearly due west, as tlie two chiefs felt 
confident the villages were in that direction. That day and the next jxissed 
without further incident. 

After arriving at camp on the second evening, a conversation with the 
two Indian chiefs made it seem probable that our journey would have to be 
prolonged several days beyond the time which was deemed necessarywhen we 
left the main camp. And as our sujjply of provisions was limited to our su^)- 
posed wants dui'ing the shorter journey, it was necessary to adopt measures 
for obtaining fresh supplies. This was the more imjierative as the country 
through which we were then passing was almost devoid of game. Our party 
was so small in number that our safety would be greatly imperilled by any 
serious reduction, yet it was a measure of necessity that a message should 
be sent back to General Sheridan, informing him of our changed plans and 
providing for a renewal of our stores. 

I acquainted the men of my command with my desire, and it was not long 
before a soldierly young trooper announced tiiat he would volunteer to carr}- a 
despatch safely tlu'ough. The gallant offer was accepted, and I was soon 
seated on the ground, pencil. in hand, writing to General Shei'idan a hurried 
account of our progress thus far and our plans for the future, with a request to 
forward to us a supply of provisions ; adding that the party escorting tliem 
coukl follow on our trail, and I would arr.-uige to find them when required. I 
also requested that Colonel Cook, who commanded the sharpshooters, should 
be detailed to command the escort, and that California Joe might also be sent 
with the party. 

It was decided that the despatch bearer should remain in camp Avith us un- 
til dark and then set out on his return to the main camp. Being well niounted, 
well armed, and a cool, daring young fellow, I felt but little anxiety as to his 
success. Leaving him to make his solitary journey guided by the light of the 
stars, and concealing himself during the day, we will continue our search after 
what then seemed to us the two lost tribes. 

Daylight as usual found us in our saddles, the country continuing interest- 
ing but less rolling, and (we judge by appearances) less productive. We saAV 
but little game along our line of march, and the importance of time rendered 
delays of all kinds undesirable. The countenances of Little Robe and Yellow 
Bear wore an anxious look, and I could see that they began to doubt their 
ability to determine positively the locality of the villages. Neva, the Blackfoot. 
was full of stories connected with liis experiences under General Fremont, and 
appeared more hopeful than the two chiefs. He claimed to be a son-in-law of 
Kit Carson, his wife, a half-breed, being deceased. Carson, it appeared, had 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 219 

always regnrded Neva with favor, and often made him and liis finiily hand- 
some iwesents. I afterwards saw a son of Neva, an extremely handsome hoy 
of fourteen, Avhose comely face and features clearly betrayed the mixture of 
blood indicated by Neva. 

Yellow Bear finally encouraged us by stating that by noon the following 
day we would arrive at a stream, on whose banks lie expected to find the Ar- 
apaho village, and perhaps that of the CheytMines. This gave us renewed hope, 
and furnished us a topic of conversation after we had reached our camp that 
night. Nothing occurred worthy of note until about noon next day, when Yel- 
l((\v Bear informed me that we were within a few miles of the stream to whic-li ' 
lie had referred the day before, and added that if the village was there his peo- 
ple would have a lookoJit posted on a little knoll Avhich we Avould find about a 
mile from the village in our direction; and as the appearance of our entire 
force might give alarm. Yellow Bear suggested that he, with Little Robe, Ro- 
meo, Neva, myself, and two or three others, should ride some distance in ad- 
vance. 

Remembering the proneness of the Indians to stratagem, I Avas yet im- 
pressed not only with the apparent sincerity of Yellow Bear thus fai% but by 
the soundness of the reasons he gave for our moving in advance. I assented 
to his proposition, but my confiilence was not sufficiently great to prevent me 
from quietlj' slipping a fresh cartridge in my rifle, as it lay in front of mo 
across my saddle-bow, nor from unbuttoning the straj) which held my revolver 
in place by my side. Fortunately, however, nothing occurred to make it nec- 
essary to displace either rifle or revolver. 

After riding in advance for a couple of miles. Yellow Bear pointed out in 
the distance the little mound at which he predicted we would see sometliing 
posted in the way of information concerning his tribe. If the latter was not in 
the vicinity a letter would no doubt be found at the mound, which now became 
an object of interest to all of us, each striving to be the first to discover the 
confirmation of Yellow Bear's prediction. 

In this way we continued to approach the mound until not more than a mile 
of level plain separated us from it, anil still nothing could be seen to encourage 
ns, when, owing to my reason being quickened by the excitement of the occa- 
sion, thus giving me an advantage over the chiefs, or from other causes, I 
cauglit sight of what Avould ordinarily have been taken for two half-round 
stones or small bowlders, just visible above the ujiper circle of the mound, as 
projected against the sky beyond. A second glance convinced me that instead 
of the stones which they so closelj' resembled, they were neither more nor less 
tlian the upper parts of the heads of two Indians, Avho Avei-e no doubt studying 
our movements with a view of determining whether Ave were a friendly or 
AA'^ar party. 

Reassuring myself by the aid of my field-glass, I announced my discovery 
to the chiefs and the rest of the party. Yellow Bear immediately cantered his 
pony a few yards to the front, when, freeing his scarlet bl.mket from his 
shoulders, he Avaved it twice or thrice in a mysterious manner, and Avaited 
anxiously the response. In a moment the two Indians, the tops of Avhose 
heads had alone been A'isible, rode boldly to the crest of the mound and an- 
swered the signal of YelloAV Bear, Avho uttered a quick, oft-repeated Avhoop, 
and, at my suggestion, galloped in advance, to inform his people who we were, 
and our object in visiting them. By the time Ave reached the mound all nec- 
essary explanations had been made, and the two Indians advanced at Yellow 



220 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

Bear's bidding and shook liands with me, afterward going through the same 
ceremony with tlie otlier officers. Yellow Bear then despatched one of the 
Indians to the village, less than two miles distant, to give news of our ajiproach. 

It seemed that they had scarcelj' had time to reach the village, before 
young and old began flocking out to meet us, some on ponies, othei-s on 
mules, and occasionally two full-grown Indians would be seen mounted on one 
diminutive pony. If any of our part}' had feared that our errand was attended 
with risk, their minds probably underwent a change when they looked around, 
and upon all sides saw armed warriors, whose numbers exceeded ours more 
than ten to one, and whose entire bearing and demeanor toward us gave 
promise of any but hostile feelings. 

Not deeming it best to allow them to encircle us too closely, I requested 
Y'ellow Bear, in whose peaceable desires I had confidence, to direct his peo- 
ple to remain at some distance from us, so as not to impede our progress; at 
the same time to inform them that it was our purpose to pitch our camj) im- 
mediately alongside of theirs, Avhen full opportunity Avould be given for inter- 
change of visits. This proposition seemed to meet with favor, and our route 
was left unobstructed. A short ride brought us to the village, the lodges com- 
posing which were dotted in a picturesque manner along the left branch of 
Mulberry creek, one of the tributaries of Red river. 

I decided to cross the creek and bivouac on the right bank, opposite the 
lower end of the village, and within easj' pistol range of the nearest lodge. 
This location may strike the reader with some surprise, and may suggest the 
inquiry why we did not locate ourselves at some point farther removed from 
tlie village. It must be remembered that in undertaking to i)eneti-ate the In- 
dian country with so small a force, I acted throughout upon the belief tiiat if 
proper precautions were adopted, the Indians would not molest us. Indians 
contemplating a battle, eitlier offensive or defensive, are always anxious to 
have their women and children removed from all danger thereof. By our 
-watchfulness we intended to let the Indians see that there would be no oppor- 
tunity for them to take us by surprise, but that if fighting was intended, it 
should not be all on one side. For this reason I decided to locate our camp as 
close as convenient to the village, knowing that the close proximity of their 
Avomen and children, and their necessary exposure in case of conflict, would 
operate as a powerful argument in favor of peace, when the question of peace 
or Avar came to be discussed. 

But right here I Avill do the Arapahoes justice, by asserting that after 
the first council, Avhich took place in my camp tiie same evening, and after 
they had had an opportunity to learn the exact character and object of our 
mission, as told to them by me, and confirmed by the earnest addresses of 
I'ellow Bear and Little Robe, they evinced toAvard us nothing but friendly 
feeling, and exhibited a ready Avillingness to conform to the only demand Ave 
made of them, Avhich Avas that they should proceed at once, Avith their entire 
village, to our main camp, Avithin their reservation, and then rejwrt to Gen- 
eral Sheridan. 

Little Raven, the head chief, spoke for his people, and expressed their 
gratification at tlie rep.)rts brouglit to them by Yellow Bear and Little Robe. 
Tiiey ace<!pted Avith gladness the offer of i^eace, and jiromised to set out in 
three days to proceed to our main camp, near the site of Fort Sill. As it Avas 
quite late before the council concluded the discussion of questions pertaining 
to the Arapahoes, no reference Avas made to the Chej'ennes; besides, I kncAV 







tM'^^' 



LITTLE RAVEN, HEAD CHIEF OF THE ARAPAHOES. 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 221 

that Little Robe would be able to gather all possible information concerning 
them. 

Little Raven invited me to visit him tlie following day in his village, an in- 
vitation I promised to accept. Before the chiefs separated, I requested Little 
Raven to give notice through them to all his people, that after it became 
dark it would no longer be safe for any of them to approach our camp, as, ac- 
cording to our invariable custom, guards would be posted about camp during 
the entire niglit; and as we could not distinguish friends from foes in the dark- 
ness, the sentries would be ordered to fire on everj' object seen approaching 
our camp. To this Little Raven and his chiefs promised assent. I then 
farther informed him that during our stay near them we should always be 
glad, during the hours of daylight, to receive visits from him or from any of 
his people, but to prevent confusion or misunderstanding, not more than twenty 
Indians would be permitted to visit our camp at one time. This also was 
agreed to, and the chiefs, after shaking hands and uttering tlie customary 
"How," departed to their village. Yellow Bear remained only long enough 
to say that, his family being in the village, he preferred, of course, to be with 
them, but assured us tliat his people were sincere in their protestations of 
peace, and tliat we might sleep as soundly as if we were back among our 
comrades, in tlie main cami?, witli no fears of unfriendly interruption. 

After tethering our horses and paclv mules securely in our midst, and post- 
ing the guards for the night, each one of our little party, first satisfying him- 
self that his firearms were in good order and loaded, spread his blanket on the 
ground, and, with his saddle for a pillow, the sky unobscured by tent or roof 
above him, was soon reposing comfortably on the broad bosom of mother 
eartli, where, banishing from tlie mind as quickly as possible all visions of In- 
dians, peace commissioners, etc., sleep soon came to the relief of each, and we 
all, except the guards, rested as peacefully and comfortably as if at home un- 
der our mother's roof; and j^et we all, in seeking our lowly couches that 
night, felt that the chances were about even whether or not we should be 
awakened by the war whoop of our dusky neighbors. Nothing occurred, how- 
ever, to disturli our dreams or break our slumber, save, perhaj^s, in my own 
case. From a greater sense of responsibility, perhaps, than rested on my com- 
rades, but not greater danger, I awoke at different hours during tlie night, and 
to assure myself tliat all was well, rose up to a sitting posture on the ground, 
and, aided by the cle.ar sky and bright starlight, looked about me, only to see, 
however, the dim outlines of my sleeping comrades as they lay in all manner 
of attitudes around me, wrapped in their blankets of gray, while our faithful 
horses, picketed in the midst of their sleeping riders, were variously disposed, 
some lying down, resting from the fatigues of the march, others nibljling the 
few tufts of grass which the shortness of their tether enabled them to reach. 
That which gave me strongest assurance of safety, Iiowever, as I glanced 
across the little stream, and behekl the conical forms of the white lodges of the 
Indians, was the silent picture of the sentry as he i)aced his lonely post Avithin 
a few feet of where I lay. And when to my inquiiy, in subdued tones, if all 
had I)een quiet during the night, came the pi'ompt, soldierly response, "All 
quiet, sir," I felt I'enewed confidence, and again sought the solace of my eques- 
trian pillow. 

Breakfasting before the stars bade us good night, or rather good morning, 
daylight found us ready for the duties of the day. As soon as the Indians 
were prepared for my visit. Yellow Bear came to inform me of the fact, and to 



222 MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

escort mo to Littlo R;iven''3 loilc^o. Ronioo :iml Xeva .iceompanieil me, the 
former us iiitorpretor. I directud Captriiii H(>lji)iiis, the officer next in rank, to 
cause all men to remain closely in camp during my absence, and to be careful 
not to permit more than the authorized number of Indians to enter; also to 
watch well the Indian village, not that I believed there would be an attempt 
at stratagem, but deemed it well to be on guard. To convince the Indians of 
my own sincerity, I left my rifle and revolver with my men, a measure of not 
such gi'eat significance as it might at first seem, as the question of arms or no 
arms would have exercised but little influence in determining my fate had tlie 
Indians, as I never for a moment believed, intended treacherj\ 

Arrived at Little Raven's lodge, I found him surrounded by all his princi- 
pal chiefs, a place being reserved by his side for me. After the usual smoke 
and the preliminary moments of silence, Avhich strongly reminded me of the 
deep silence which is the prelude to religious services in some of our churches. 
Little Raven began a speech, which was mainly a review of what had been 
agreed upon the evening befjre, and closed with the statement that his people 
were highly pleased to see white men among them as friends, and that the idea 
of complying with my demand in regard to proceeding to our main camp had 
been discussed Avith great favor by all of his people, who Avere delighted with 
this opi^ortunity of terminating the Avar. All questions aflecting the Arapahocs 
being satisfactorily disposed of, I now introduced the subject of the Avherc- 
abouts of the Cheyenne village, stating that my purpose was to extend to them 
the same terms as had been accepted by the Arapahoes. 

To this I could obtain no decisiA'e or satisfactoiy reply. The Che3'ennos 
were represented to be moAnng constant!}', hence the difticulty in informing me 
accurately as to their location ; but all agreed that the Cheyennes Avei'e a long 
distance Avest of Avhere Ave then were. Finally I obtained a promise from Lit- 
tle Raven that he avouUI- select two of his active young Avarriovs, Avho Avonld 
accompany me in my search for the Chej-enne village, and Avhose knowledge 
of the country and acquaintance Avith the Cheyennes Avould be of incalculable 
service to me. As the limited amount of proA'isions on hand AA'ould not justify 
us in continuing our search for the Cheyennes, I decided to await the arrival 
of Colonel Cook, Avho, I felt confident, Avould reach us in a fcAV days. 

In the meanwhile the day I'lxm] fur the departure of the Arapahoes came, 
and the village was all com motion and activity, lodges being taken down and 
packed on ponies and mules; the activity, I inight mention, being confined, 
however, to the squaAVS, the noble lords ot the forest sitting nnconcernedly by, 
quietlj' smoking their lorg red clay pipes. I Avas sorrj'^ to lose the services of 
Yellow Dear, but it w.as necessary for him to accomp:uiy ins people, jiartii-ular- 
ly as he represented the peace element. I gave iiini a letter to General Sheri- 
dan, in Avhich I informed the latter of our meeting Avith the Arapahoes, the 
council, and the final agreement. In view of the further extension of our jour- 
ney, I requested a second detachment to be sent on our ti'ail, Avith supjilies, to 
meet us on our return. EverA'thing being in readiness, tlie chiefs, commenc- 
ing Avith Little Raven, gathered around me, and bade me good-by, Yellow 
Bear being the last to take his leave. This being ended, the entire village 
was put in motion, and soon stretched itself into a long, irregular column. 

The chiefs formed the advance; next came the squaws and cliildren and 
the old men, followed by the pack animals bearing the lodges and household 
goods; after these came the herd, consisting of hundreds of loose ponies and 
mules, driven by squaws; Avhile on the outskirts of the entire cavalcade rode 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 223 

the young men and boj's, perfonnlng llic part of assistants to the henlers, but 
more important as flankers or viilettes in case of danger or attack. Nor nmst 
I omit another important element in estimating the po^ndation of an Indian 
village, the dogs. These were without number, and of all colors and sizes. 
It was difficult to determine which outnumbered the other, the dogs or their 
owners. Some of the former wei'e mere jjuppies, unable to travel; tliese 
were carefully stowiid away in a comfortable sort of basket, made of Avil- 
lows, and securely attached to the back of one of the pack animals, the mother 
of the interesting family trotting along contentedly b}^ the side of the latter. 

After the excitement attending the departure of tlie Indians ha<l passed, 
and the last glimpse of the departing village had been had, our little party 
seemed lonely enough, as we stood huddled together on the bank of Mulbei-- 
ry creek. Tliere was notliing to be done until the arrival of our expected sup- 
plies. Little Robe, imi)aticnt at the proposed delay, concluded to start at once 
in quest of his people, and if possible persuade them to meet us instead of 
awaiting our arrival. lie evidently was anxious to have peace concluded Aviih 
the Cheyennes, and thus enable his people to be placed on the same secure 
footing with the Arapahoes. Instead of opposing, I encouraged him in the 
execution of his plan, although loath to part with him. The two young Ara- 
pahoes were to remain with me, however, and by concert of plan between 
tiieni and Little Robe we would be able to follow the trail. 

It was agreed that if Little Robe sliould come uji with his people and be able 
to induce them to return, he was to send up smoke signals each morning and 
evening, in order that we miglit receive notice of their apjiroatdi and be able 
to regulate our march accordingly. Giving him a sufficient supjjly of coftee, 
sugar, and hard bread, we saw Little Robe set out on his solitary journey in 
tiie character of a veritable peace commissioner. 

I might fill several pages in describing the various expedients to which 
our little party resorted in order to dispose of our time while waiting the ar- 
rival of our supplies. How Romeo, by tiie promise of a small rewjird in case 
lie was successful, was induced to attempt to ride a beautiful Indian pony, 
wliich we had caught on the plains, anel wliich was still as wild and unbroken 
as if he had never felt tiie hand of man. Tlie ground selected Avas a broad 
border of deep sand, extending up and down the valley. Two long lariats 
were securely fastened to the halter. At the end of one was my brother. I 
officiated at tlie end of the other, with the pony standing midway between us, 
some twenty feet from either, and up to his fetlocks in sand, an anxious spec- 
tator of what was going on. Everything being in readiness, Romeo, with 
never a fear or doubt as to the result, stepped quietly up to the side of the 
pony, who, turning liis head somewhat inquiringlj^ uttered a few snorts indi- 
cative of anj"thing but gentleness. Romeo, who was as active as a cat, suc- 
ceeded, in placing his hands on tlie pony's back, and with an injunction to us 
to keep firm hold on the lariats, he sjirang lightly upon the back of the pony 
and seized the mane. I liave seen trained mules, the delight of boys who at- 
tend the circus, and sometimes of persons of more advanced age, and jiave 
witnessed the laugliable effin'ts of the j'oungsters who v:iinly endeavor to ride 
the contumacious quadrnptnl once around tlie ring; but I I'emember nothing 
of this description to equal or resemble the frantic plunges of the Indian pony 
in his untrained efforts to free liis back from its burden, nor the equally fi'an- 
tic and earnest efforts of the rider to maintain his position. Fortunately for 
the holders of the lariats, they exceeded the length of the pony's legs, or his 



224 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

heels, which were behig elevated in all ilirectlons, niul almost at the same 
time, wouKl have compelleil us to relinquish our huhl, and U-ave Romeo to his 
fate. As both pony and rider seemed to redouble their eliorts for tlie mastery, 
the scenebecame more ludicrous, while the hearty and prolonged shouts of 
laugliter from the bystiiuders on all sides seemed only to add intensity lo the 
contest. 

This may strike the reader as a not very dignified proceeding, particularly 
upon the part of one of the lariat holders; but we were not studying how to 
appear dignified, but how to amuse ourselves. So exhausted did I become 
with unrestrained laughter, as I beheld Romeo in his lofty gyrations about a 
centre which belonged to the movable order, that a much further prolongation 
of the sport would have forced me to relinquish my hold on tlie lariat. But I 
Avas spared this result. The ponj', as if studying the iiroblem, had indulged 
in almost everj'' conceivable form of leaping, and now, rising almost perpen- 
dicularly on his hind legs, stood erect, pawing the air with his fore legs, and 
compelling Romeo, in order to prevent himself from sliding off, to clasp liim 
about the neck with botli arms. The pony seemed almost as if waiting this 
situation, as with the utmost quickness, and before Romeo could resume his 
seat, he descended from his elevated attitude, and the next moment his head 
was almost toucliing the ground, and his heels occupied the space just vacated 
bj' his head in mid air. Tliis sudden cliange was too much for Romeo, and as 
if projected from an ancient catapult, he disparted from his place on tlie back 
of the pony, and landed on the deep, soft sand, many feet in advance of liis 
late oi)ponent. Three times was this repeated, with almost the same I'esult, 
until finally Romeo, as he brushed the sand from his matted locks, expressed 
it as his opinion that no one Init an Indian could ride that pon}\ As Romeo 
was lialf Indian, the distinction seemed finely drawn. 

Innumerable were the tricks played on each other by one and all ; every- 
thing seemed legitimate sjjort which tended to kill time. Three days after 
the departure of the Arapaho village, the lookout I'eported that parties were 
in siglit some three or four miles in the direction taken bj' the village. This 
created no little excitement in camp. Field-glasses were brought into imme- 
diate requisition, and after a careful examination of the parties, who could be 
plainly seen approaching us in the distance, we .all came to the conclusion 
that what we saw must be the escort with our supplies. A few horses were 
soon saddled, and two of the officers, with some of the men, galloped out to 
meet the advancing party. It proved to be Colonel Cook, with California Joe 
and a dozen men, bringing with them several pack animals loaded with fresh 
sujiplies. 

I need not say how we welcomed their arrival. It was too late in the 
day to ma.ke it desirable for us to set out on the trail of Little Robe, as it 
was necessary to unpack and issue rations and repack the remainder; so that 
it was concluded to remain until next morning, an additional reason in favor 
of this resolution being that the horses of Colonel Cook's party would have 
th(! benefit of rest. The account given by Colonel Cook and California Joe 
concerning tlieir marcli was exceedinglj'^ interesting. It will be remembered 
that it was the expectation that we would find the Arapaho vill.ige nearer 
our main camp than we afterward did, and in my letter to General Slieiidan 
I had intimated that Colonel Cook would probably overtake us at a point not 
far from the termination of the Witchita mountains. 

Colonel Cook arrived at the dt^signated point, but we, of course, had gone, 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 225 

find not findin;^ any letter or signal at our deserted camp, he beeame, not iin- 
natiirallj', anxious as to where we had gone. This will not be wondei-ed at 
when it is remembered that he had but thirteen men with him, and was then 
in a hostile coiintr}', and far from all support. However, he had nothing to 
do but to continue on our trail. That night will no doubt live long in the 
memory of Colonel Cook. 

After reaching camp with his little party, in a small piece of timber, he, 
as be afterward related to nie, began taking a mental survey of his situation. 
For fear of misleading the reader, I will here remark, as I have indicated 
in previous chapters, that fear, or a lack of tlie highest order of personal 
courage, was not numbered among the traits of character possessed by this 
officer. After seeing that the animals were properly secured for the night, 
and his men made comfortable, he sat down by the camp fire awaiting the pre- 
paration of his evening meal. In the mean time California Joe found him, 
and entered into a discussion as to the probalnlities of overtaking us soon, 
and in a kind of Jack Bunsby style suggested, if not, why not? 

The more Colonel Cook looked at the matter, the more trying seemed his 
position. Had he known, as we then knew, that the Arapahoes had been 
found, and a peaceful agi'eement entered into, it would have solved all his 
difficulty. Of this he of course was ignorant, and thoughts ran through his 
mind that perhaps my little pai'ty had been led on only to be massacred, and 
his would follow blindly to the same fate. This recalled all former Indian 
atrocities with which he was familiar, while prominent above them all rose 
before him the fate of young Kidder and party, whose fate is recorded in a 
ft)rmer chapter. 

In thinking of this. Colonel Cook was struck by a coincidence. Kidder's 
pai'ty consisted of almost the identical number which composed his own. Kid- 
der had a guide, and Cook had California Joe ; all of which, witbout attach- 
ing anjMmportance to his words, the latter took pains to i-emind Colonel Cook 
of. By the time supper was prepared Colonel Cook felt the responsibilities of 
his position too strongly to have anj'^ appetite for food, so that when supper was 
commenced he simply declined it, and invited California Joe to help himself — 
an invitation the latter was not slow in accepting. Posting his guards for the 
night. Colonel Cook felt that to sleep was impossible. He took his seat by 
the camp fire, and Avith his arms by his side impatiently waited the cominir of 
dawn. 

California Joe, who regarded the present as of far more importance than the 
future, and whose slumber would have been little disturbed even had he known 
that hostile Indians were soon to be encountei*ed, disposed of Colonel Cook's 
supper, and then, \vi-apping himself up in his blanket, stretched himself under 
a tree near the fire, and M-assoon sleeping soundly. His brief account of the 
enjoyment he derediv from Colonel Cook's supper was characteristic : " Thar 
I sot an' sot a eatin' uv that young man's Avittles, while he in his cavalry boots, 
with his pistols in his belt, stood a lookin' inter the fire." 

Early next morning, as soon as the light was sufficient to enable them to 
follow our trail, Colonel Cook and his party were on their waj-. About noon, 
as they were passing over a low ridge, yet sufficiently high to en.ible them to 
see for miles beyond, the eyes of one of the party caught a .view of a long 
line of dark-looking objects miles in advance, yet dii-ectly in their path. Each 
moment the objects became more distinct, until finally Colonel Cook, who was 
studying them intently through his glass, pronounced the simple word, " In- 



226 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

dians.'" "Ef tliat is so, Colonel, thar's a many one uv 'em," was the sober 
I'esponso of California Joe, avIio rode at his side. 

By this time the Indians eould be plainly seen, although numbers of them 
continued to gallop up from tlie rear. It was evident from their movements 
that the}' had discovered Colonel Cook's party almost as soon as he had seen 
tliem, and that the entire body of Indians was directing its march toward the 
little eminence from which the white men were now watching tiieir movements. 
" Wliat do yer think about it now, Colonel?" said California Joe, at last 
breaking tiie silence. " Well, Joe, we must do the best we can ; there is no 
use in running." "You're right," rejilied Joe; "an Injun '11 beat a white man 
runnin' every time, so I 'spect our best holt is fitin', but, Lor' a' mercy! look 
at 'em ; thar ain't enuff uv us to go half round ! " 

Getting his little party collected in good order, and speaking words of en- 
couragement to all. Colonel Cook quietly awaited further developments. His 
tlioughts in tlie meanwhile must have been such as he probably never wishes to 
inilulge in again. All sorts of terrible visions and ideas flashed through his 
mind ; the most prominent as well as plausible being tliat the Indians had made 
away with my party, and from Little Robe and Yellow Bear had learned of the 
expected supplies, with their small escort, and were now in search of the lat- 
ter. Whatever varied thoughts of this character chased each other through 
his brain, he at once came to the lirm resolve that whatever fate was in store 
for him, he would meet it like a soldier, and if the worst came he Avould fight 
to the last. 

By this time it was seen that a single Indian was galloping in advance of 
the rest, as if hastening to reach the white men. " That's a queer dodge," re- 
marked California Joe; but the mystery was soon cleared away, as the Indian 
began to draw near to the party without slackening his pace. Colonel Cook 
and California Joe instinctively advanced to meet him, when to their great 
jo)' and surprise it proved to be none other than the faitliful Yellow Bear, who, 
•realizing the situation, had ridden in advance of his people in order to assure 
J,lie wliites of their friendly character. His coming no doubt caused the hearts 
of Colonel Cook and his party to beat lighter. Or, as California Joe expressed 
it: " When I seed it wuz Yaller Bar T knowed we wuz all right." From Yel- 
low Bear Colonel Cook learned where he might expect to find us, and thus an- 
other cause of anxiety was lifted from his mind. 

The morning after my party had been reinforced by the arrival just de- 
scribed, we set out under guidance of Neva and the two young Arapaho war- 
riors, and followed the direction in which Little Robe had gone. It being one 
of the winter months, the Indian ponies were still in unlit condition to make 
long or rapid marches; for tiiis reason tlie two Arapahoes iiad left tlieir ponies 
with the village, and were accompanying or rather preceding us on foot; an 
undertaking wiiich they seemed to have no difliculty in aecompli.slung. The 
grazing became more indifferent each day as we journeyed toward the west, 
until fnially we ceased to rely upon it, but as a substitute fed our horses upon 
the bark of the young cottonwood trees which are generally found fringing the 
borders of the streams. In spite, however, of our utmost care, our liorses and 
pack animals, having exhausted their supply of forage, began to fail in strength 
and condition inuler their cottonwood bark diet. 

After reaching and crossiuLr Red river at a point west of that at which the 
survey of Marcy and McClellan crossed it, and failing to discover any indica- 
tion of the I'cceut occupation of the ground by Indians, I had fears that if I pro- 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 227 

longed my jonrnpy much further our animals would not be able to reach the 
main camp, so famished had thej' become in the last few days. I therefore, 
after consultation with Neva and the two Arapahoes, decided to rccross to the 
north bank of Red river, and follow up its course until we should reach a small 
tributary coming in from the northwest, and which Neva informed me would 
furnish a good camp ground. In the meanwhile Neva, who was well mounted 
on a hardy, active mule, was to take with him the two young Arapahoes, and 
push on in advance in seai'ch of the Cheyenne village, the understanding being 
that I should follow in his direction until the stream referred to was reached, 
where I would await his return for three days. Should he fail to rejoin us in 
that time, we would commence our return march to the main camp. 

When it was known that this plan had been definitely settled upon, young 
Brewster, who never for a moment had become discouraged as to his final suc- 
cess in discovering his lost sister, came to me, and in the most earnest manner 
asked permission to accomijany Neva in his search for the Cheyenne village. 
I did everything I could to dissuade him from so dangerous a project. 

No arguments Avere of any avail. lie felt satisfied that his sister was a 
prisoner in the Chej'enne village, and this his last and only opportunity to gain, 
a knowledge of the fact; and even Avith the chances of death or torture staring 
him in the face he preferred to risk all, and learn the truth, I'ather than live 
longer in a state of horrible uncertainty. Against my judgment in the matter, 
I was forced by his importunate manner to grant him permission to accompa- 
ny Neva. 

Taking a suitable amount of supplies Avith them, the three Indians and young 
BreAvstev set out, Neva being the only one of the party mounted. After they 
had left us Ave moved in the same direction, Avith the intention of halting on 
the stream indicated by Neva, there to await their return. While the reader 
is also Avaiting tiieir return, I Avill refer to an incident whicii should IiaA^e ap- 
peared in an earlier part of this chajiter. It was neither more nor less than 
Avhat might, among fashionable notices in the Indian press — provided they had 
one — have been termed an elopement in high life. 

One evening after AA'^e had gone into camp, many long weary miles from 
our point of starting, and Avhen Ave supposed Ave had left all the Kiowas safely 
in camp awaiting the release of their two chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta, Ave 
Avere all surprised to see a young and handsome Kiowa Avarrior gallop into our 
midst accompanied by a young squaAV, Avho certainly could not have reached 
the age Avhich distinguishes the Avoman from the girl. In a fcAV moments our 
little party gathered about these two AA^ayfarers, eager to learn the cause of 
their sudden and unexpected visit. The girl Avas possessed of almost marvel- 
lous beauty, a beauty so remarkable that my comjianions of that march refer 
to her to this day as the most beautiful squaAv they have ever seen. Her 
graceful and well-rounded form, her clearly-cut features, her dark expressive 
eyes, fringed Avith long silken lashes, cheeks rich Avith the color of youth, teeth 
of pearly whiteness occasionally peeping from betAveen her full, rosy lips, added 
Avitiial to a most bewitching manner, required not the romance of her story to 
make her an object of deep interest in the eyes of the gallants of our party. 
Hut to tlieir story. 

She was the daughter of Black Eagle, at that time the acting head chief of 
the KioAvas. The young Avarrior Avho rode at her side aa'rs somewhat of a 
young Lochinvar in disposition. It Avas the old, old story, only to be repeated 
again by these representatives of the red man — mutual and determined love on 



228 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

the part of the youngsters, opposition equally determined upon the part of 
Black Eagle; not that the young warrior was objectionable, but unfortunate- 
ly, as is but too often the case, he was poor, and could not offer in exchange 
fur the hand of a chiefs daughter the proper number of jjonies. Black Eagle 
was inexorable — the lovers, constancy itself. There was but one thing for 
them to do, and they did it. 

Aware of our proposed expedition in search of the Cheyennes and Arapa- 
hoes, they timed their affairs accordingly. Giving us time to get two days the 
start, they slipped away from their village at dusk the evening of the second 
day after our departure, and hastening unperceived to a thicket near by, where 
the lover had taken the precaution to conceal two of the fleetest ponies of the 
village already saddled, they were soon in their saddles and galloping for love 
and life away from the Kiowa village, I say galloping for life, for by the Indian 
law, if the father or relatives of the girl could overtake the lovers within twen- 
ty-four hours, the life of the young woman would pay the forfeit. 

They followed our trail in order to avail themselves of our protection by 
travelling with us as iar as our course might lead them in the direction of the 
Staked Plains, on the borders of which a straggling liand of Kiowas, under the 
chief Woman Heart, was supposed to be, and which the lovers intended to 
join, at least until the rage oi paterfamilias should subside and they be invi- 
ted to return. This in brief was their story. I need not add that they found 
a hearty welcome in our midst, and were assured that they need no longer 
fear pursuit. 

That evening, after the camp fires were lighted, the officers of our party, 
with Romeo as interpreter, gathered about the camp fire of the bridal couple 
and passed a pleasant hour in conversation. Their happiness and exultation 
at their success in escaping from their village were too powerful to be restrain- 
ed, and in many delicate little ways the bride — for by Indian law twenty-four 
hours' absence from the village with her lover made her a bride — i:)lainly be- 
trayed her exceeding fondness for him who had risked all to claim her as his 
own. 

After my return to the main camp I met Black Eagle, and informed him 
that his daughter and her husband had been companions of our march. "Yes. 
"Why did you not kill him.-' " was his reply, which upon inquiry he explained 
by saying that if some person had kindly put an end to the life of his son-in- 
law, it would have benefited him to the value of several ponies; his difliculty 
seeming to be in overcoming the loss of the ponies Avhich should have been 
paid for his daugliter's hand. I afterwards learned, however, that the haugh- 
ty chief became reconciled to the wilful lovers, and invited them to return to 
his lodge, an invitation they were not tardy in accepting. 

We pitched our camp at the point agreed upon between Neva and myself, 
and prepared to await tlie return of his party. Neva had been informed that 
our delay could not extend beyond three days, as our store of provisions and 
forage was almost exhausted, and this fact alone would force us to retrace our 
steps. I had hoped that during the time we Avere to sj^end in camp, hunting 
parties might be able to bring in a sufficient amount of game to satisfy our 
wants; but although parties were despatched in all directions, not an animal 
or bird could be found. So barren was the countiy as to offer no inducements 
that would attract game of any species. 

Our last ounce of meat had been eaten, and the men, after one day's depri- 
vation of this essential ^jart of their rations, were almost ravenous. Our hoi'ses 



-MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 239 

had severa.1 days since eaten their last ration of gi'ain, and the grass was so 
sparse and indifferent as to fiirnisli insufficient diet to sustain life. Resort was 
had to Cottonwood barli, to obtain wliicli we cut down large numbers of the 
trees, and fed our horses upon the young bark of the branches. Knowing 
that in answer to my second request supplies of provisions both for men and 
horses must be on their way and probably near to us, I determined to begin 
our return march one daj' sooner than I had expected when Neva and his com- 
panions left us, as they would be able on finding our camp to follow our trail 
and overtake us. 

We moved only a few miles, but even this short distance Avas sufficient to 
demonstrated how weak and famished our horses had become, one of them dy- 
ing from starvation before we reached camp, the first day of our return march. 
This circumstance, however, was turned to our advantage. Much has been 
said and written in praise of the savoriness of horseflesh as a diet. Our nec- 
essities compelled us to put this question to practical test, and the animal had 
scarcely fallen, unable to rise again, when it was decided to prepare his car- 
cass for food. That evening the men treated themselves to a bountiful repast 
made up of roasts, steaks, and broils, all from the flesh of the poor animal, 
whose death Avas attriljutable to starvation alone. Judging, however, from the 
jolly laughter which rang through camp at supper time, the introduction of 
this new article of diet met with a cordial reception. 

Soon after finishing our supper, we discovered in the distance and follow- 
ing in our trail a horseman. We at once concluded that this must be Neva, a 
fact rendered conclusive by the aid of a field-glass. Various wei'e the surmi- 
ses indulged in by the difl'erent members of our party as to the success of Ne- 
va's mission. Wliat had become of his comjianions, particularly young Brew- 
ster? These and many other inquiries suggested themselves as we watched 
his approach. We could almost read the answer on Neva's face when he 
reached us as to the success of his search for the Cheyennes. Disajipointment, 
hunger, and fatigue were plainly marked in his features as he dismounted and 
shook hands with us. Knowing that one of the characteristics of the Indian 
is to talk but little until the wants of the inner man have been fully attended 
to, I at once ordered him a steak. One of the party, however, feai-ing that if 
he knew the exact chai'acter of the diet offered him he might from some su- 
perstitious cause decline it, suggested that Neva be asked if he would like a 
nice buffalo steak, a deception Avhich seemed somewliat justifiable undea* the 
circumstances. To this Neva returned a hearty affirmative, Avhen one of the 
men placed before him a raw steak, whose dimensions would have amply grati- 
fied the appetites of an ordinary family of half a dozen. Having held the 
steak over the blazing fire until sufficiently done to suit his t;iste, Neva seated 
himself on the ground near by and began helping himself liberally to the 
dripping morsel. After he had indulged for some time in this pleasing enter- 
tainment, and having made no remark, one of the officers inquired of him if he 
was hungry. 

" Yes," was his reply, but added in his very indifferent English, " Poor buf- 
fano, poor bufiano." None of us ever informed him of the little deception 
which had been practised upon him. 

His account of his journey was brief. He had travelled nearly due west, 
accompanied by Brewster and the two young Arapahoes, and had discovered 
a trail of the Cheyenne village some two weeks old, leading still further to the 
west, and under circumstances which induced him to believe the village had 



230 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

moved far away. Under these circumstances there Avas no course left to him 
but to return. The Arapahoes decided to follow on and join the Clieyenne 
village. Neva and young Brewster began their return together, but the lat- 
ter, being unable to travel as fast as Neva, fell behind. Neva, anxious to keep 
his promise and rejoin us at the time and place indicated, pushed forward as 
rapidly as possible. Young Brewster, however, manfully struggled along, 
and reached our camp a few hours after Neva's arrival. 

Tlie next morning we set out on our homeward or return march. During 
the night one of our horses strayed away fi-om camp, and as one of the men 
thought he could lind it before we made our sttirt in the morning, he left camp 
•with that purpose. Failing to rejoin us at the proper time, I sent parties in 
search of him, jjut tln^y returned unsuccessful. We were comi^elled by our 
necessities to move without further delay. Weeks and months elapsed, and 
no tidings of the lost trooper reached us, Avhen one day, while encamped near 
Fort Hays, Kansas, hundreds of miles from the locality of which I am now 
writing, who should step U2> to my tent but the man who Avas lost from us in 
northwestern Texas. Pie had become bewildered after losing sight of our 
camp, took tlie Avrong direction, and Avas never able thereafter during his 
wanderings to determine his course. Fortunately he took a southerly route, 
and after nearly two months of solitary roaming over the plains of northern 
Texas, he arrived at a military post south of Red river in Texas, and bj' Avay 
of Gah'eston, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi and ]\Iissouri riA'ers, rejoined 
his regiment in Kansas. 

As we gained the crest of the hill from Avhich Ave obtained a vicAV of the 
white tents Avhich formed our camp, there Avas no one of our little party Svho 
did not enjoy a deep feeling of gratitude and thankfulness that om- long and 
trying journey Avas about to end under happier auspices than many might 
have sujjposed Avhen Ave began it. We had found the Arapahoes, and succeed- 
ed in placing them on their reservation, Avhere, from that date to the jn-esent 
time, they have remained, never engaging as a tribe in making AA'ar or com- 
mitting depredations on tlie Avhites, so far as my knoAvledge extends. 

AVe did not succeed so Avell with the Cheyennes, but we established facts 
regarding their location, disposition, and intentions as to peace, Avhich AA'ere 
of invaluable sexwice to us in determining future operations looking to the es- 
tablishment of peace Avith them. 

Our arrival in camp created a sensation among our comrades, Avho 
had seen us de2)art upon what they might Avell have considered an errand of 
questionable prudence. Leaving my companions of the march to answer the 
many queries of those Avho had not accompanied us, I galloped across the 
narrow plain Avhich separated General Sheridan's tents from my camp, and was 
soon greeted by the General and statt" in terms of hearty welcome, llep.iiring 
to the General's tent, I soon recounted the principal incidents of my expedi- 
tion, Avith most of Avhich the reader has been already made acquainted. I 
found that the Arapahoes had kejit their promise, made to me Avhile I 
Avas in their village, and that the village Avas then located near our main 
cam I). It might be proper here to remark that, although a i^eriod of sev- 
eral years has elapsed since tlie Arapahoes Avere induced to accept the oiler 
of peace made to them, and promised to relinquish intiiefuture their predatory 
mode of life, yet to this day, so far as I know, they as a tribe have remained at 
peace Avitii the Avhite men. 

This remark may nut, and probably does not, apply to particular individu- 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 231 

als of the tribe, but it is due to the tribe to state that their conduct, since 
the events related in tike preceding chapter, has been greatly to their credit, as 
well as to the peace and comfort of the settlers of the frontier; results wholly 
due to the Washita cami:)aign and the subsequent events with which tlie reader 
of these articles is familial'. 

The conduct of the Cheyennes, however, in declining our proffers of 
peace, left the Indian question in that section of country still unsettled; but 
this only rendered new plans necessar}-, plans which were quickly determined 
upon. Other events of great public importance rendered General Slieridan''s 
presence necessary elsewhere at an early day. 

It was therefore decided that he, accompanied bj' his escort of scouts un- 
der Lieutenant Pepoon, should proceed northward to Camp Supply, wliile I, 
with the Seventh Regulars and the Nineteentli Kansas Cavalry, anil mj' Osage 
scouts, a force numbering about fifteen hundred men, sliould move westwai'd 
in quest of the recalcitrant Cheyennes, and administer to them sueli treatment 
as their past conduct might merit and existing circumstances demanded. Sa- 
tanta and Lone Wolf were still prisoners in our hands, a portion of tlieir tribe 
having failed thus far to comply with the terms of the agreement by which 
they were to settle down peaceably on their reservation. As the greater portion 
of the tribe, however, was then encamped near us, and as botii Satanta and 
Lone Wolf Avere loud in tlieir j^rotestations of peace, it was decided to re- 
lease them. Accordingly, after conference with General Sheridan, I went 
to the lodge in which I kept the two chiefs closely guarded as prisoners, 
and informed them of the decision which had been arrived at in their be- 
half, the only response being a most hearty and emphatic " How " from the 
two robust chieftains. 

General Slieridan had up to this time declined all their requests for an 
interview, but now deemed it best to see them and spe.ak a few words of 
warning and caution as to their future conduct. No peace commissioners 
were ever entertained I).y promises of good behavior, peaceable intentions, 
and regrets for past offences, which smacked of greater earnestness and 
sinceritj' than those volunteered by Lone Wolf and Satanta when inform- 
ed that they were free to rejoin their people. According to their voluntary 
representations, their love for their white brothers was unbounded; their 
desire for peace, their hatred of war, ungovernable ; and nothing would sat- 
isfy them in future but to be permitted to lead their people "the white man's 
road,'' by cultivating the soil, building schoolhouses and churches, and for- 
ever eschewing a predatoiy or warlike life. 

Alas, the instability of human resolutions — particularly of the human in 
an Indian! and the resolutions are expressed — not formed — simply to ob- 
tain a certain advantage, or, as is most usually the case, to tickle the fanciful 
imagination of some thoroughly well-meaning but utterly impractical peace 
commissioner, Avhose favorable influence is believed by the Indian to be all- 
potent in securing fresh invoices of new blankets, breecli-loading arms, 
and provisions. Neither blankets, breech-loading arms, nor an unneces- 
sary amount of jirovisions were distributed by tlie military among tlie 
adiierents of Satanta and Lone Wolf. 

Scai"cely one year had elapsed, however, before Satanta defianlly inform- 
ed the General of the Army, then on a visit to Fort Sill, tliat lie had just re- 
turned from an expedition to Texas, during which he and liis partj- had 
murdered and robbed several white men. It was this confession which 



232 :^IY LIFE ON THE PLAIXS. 

led to Safanta'S trial, conviction, and sentence to dcatli by tlie civil author- 
ities of Texas. Tliroii;;ii the intercession of the General Government, 
the Executive of Texas was induced to commute the punislnnent of Satanta 
from hanf^ing to imprisonment for life, a step which all familiar with Indians 
and Indian management knew would result sooner or later iu his release, and 
that of his confederate. Big Tree. -=.^-— -■'*- 

Importuned eonsttxntly bj' the tender-hearted representations of the peace 
commissioners, who could not be induced to look upon Satanta and Big Tree 
as murderers, the Governor of Texas very unwisely yiehled to their persist- 
ent appeals, and upon the strength of promises solemnly made by the peace 
commissioners, according to which not only Satanta and Big Tree were to 
abstain from acts of bloodshed and murder in the future, but their entire 
tribe was also to remain at peace and within their reservation limits, the two 
cliiefs who had unfortunately escaped the halter were again turned loose to 
engage in acts of hostility against the whites; an opportunity they and their 
treacherous people have not been slow to improve from that day to this. 

The winter of 1868-69 was rapidly terminating, acting as a forcible re- 
minder to us that if we hoped to operate in the field with any advantage over 
the Cheyennes, the movement must be made befoi'e the spring gi-ass should 
make its ajjpearance for the benetit of the Indian ponies. Accordingly, as 
soon as our arrangements were perfected, our camp at the present site of Fort 
Sill, Indian Territory, was broken up, and General Sheridan, accompanied by 
his staff and escort, set out for CamiJ Supply in the north, Avhile my com- 
mand faced westward and began its search for the Cheyennes, passing along 
the southern base of the Witchita mountains, on the afternoon of inaugura- 
tion day, at old Camp Ratlziminsky, a station which had been occuijied by our 
troops prior to the war between the Northern and Southern States, and whose 
name, no doubt, Avill recall pleasant reminiscences to many who afterwards 
wore the blue or the gray. 

On the morning of the first day after leaving the "Witchita mountains be- 
hind us, no little excitement was created throughout the command by the 
discoveiy of a column of smoke directly on our course, and apparently about 
fifteen or twenty miles in front of us. That Indians had originated the fire 
■was beyond a doubt, as w^e all knew that beyond us, in the direction of the 
smoke, the country was inhabited by no human beings save hostile Indians. 
I at once decided to push on with the command to the point from which the 
smoke was ascending, and discover if possible some trace of the Indians. Be 
it understood that neither I nor any members of my command supposed for 
one moment that when we ai-rived at the desired point we would find the 
Indians there awaiting our arrival, but we did hope to discover their trail. 
Of the many expeiienced frontiermen embraced in the command, including 
of course California Joe, there were none who judged the distance which 
separated us from the smoke as greater than could be easily passed over by us 
before three or four o'clock tliat afternoon. 

It was evidently not a signal smoke — ascending from a single point and 
regulated by human control — but appeai'ed from our standpoint more like a 
fire communicated to the prairie grass from an abandoned or neglected camp 
fire. Pushing on as rapidly as our horses could travel, we were again re- 
minded from time to time of (he deceptive character of the plains as regards 
distances. When three o'clock arrived, and we had been marching steadily 
for nine hours, the dense and changing columns of deep gray smoke, wliich 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 233 

had been our guiding point .ill day, seemed as far distant as when our march 
began in the uioruiiig. Except to water our animals, and once to enable the 
men to 2Ji"ei»are a cup of coffee, no halts wei*e made from six o'clock in the 
morning until we iinall)'' reached the desired locality — not at three or four 
o'clock in the afternoon, but at two o'clock that night. 

Our surnii^ics proved correct. Tiie fire had evidently been communicated 
to the drj' winter grass from some Indian canii) fire. The Indians of course 
had gone; but where? As tliis was a question that could not be solved until 
daylight, and as all of us were glad enough of an opportunity to get a few 
hours' repose, the troops bivouacked in promiscuous order as they arrived. 

Oidy those who have enjoyed similar experieuccs know how brief the pi'e- 
paration required for sleep. As for myself, as soon as the necessary direc- 
tions had been given relating to the command, I unsaddled my horse, arranged 
my saildle for my pillow, tethered m}' horse within easy reach, and in less 
time than has been required to write these few lines, I was enjoying one of 
those slumbers which only come as the reward of a day of eaiuiest activity in 
the saddle. 

As soon as it was light enough for our purpose, we were in the saddle 
and searching in all directions for the trail left by the Indians who had fired 
the prairie. Our Osage scouts were not long in making the desired discov- 
er}'. The trail led westward, following the general course of a small valley 
in which it was first discovered. The party was evidently a small one, num- 
bering not more than fifteen persons, but the direction in which they Avere 
moving led me to hoj^e that liy following them carefully and with due caution 
to prevent discover^' of our pursuit, we might be led to the main village. 

All that day our Osage scouts clung to the trail with the pertinacity of 
sleuth hounds. Tiie course led us up and across several diiferent streams of 
beautiful, cleg,r water; but to our great disappointment, alnd to that of our 
horses as well, we discovered, upon attempting to quench our thirst at differ- 
ent times, that evei-y stream was impregnated to the fullest degree with salt. 

Later in the day this became a serious matter, and had we not been on an 
Indian trail,! should have entertained earnest apprehensions as to whether or 
not we were destined to find pure water by continuing further in the direction 
we were then moving ; but I felt confident that the Indians we were pursu- 
ing were familiar with the country, and would no doubt lead us, unintention- 
ally of course, to streams of fresh water. 

One of the streams we crossed was so strongly impregnated with salt that 
the edges near the banks were covered with a border of pure white salt, re- 
sembling the borders of ice often seen along rivulets in winter. This border 
was from one to three feet in width, and sufficiently thick to support the 
weight of a horse. Fortunately the Indian trail, as I had anticipated, led us 
to a refreshing spring of pure, cold water near by. Here we halted to prejiare 
a cup of eoftee before continuing the pursuit. 

While halted at this point I observed a trooper approaching with an armful 
of huge cakes of pure white salt, gathered from the salt stream just described, 
and which flowed at the foot of the hill from which also bubbled forth the 
spring of fresh water to which we were indebted for the means of preparing 
our first meal on that day. Salt was not an abundant article witli us at that 
time, and the trooper referred to, aware of this fact, had, in belialf of himself 
and comrades, collected from the literal " salt of the earth" a quantity ample 
for all present need. After conveying his valuable load to the vicinity of the 



234 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

cook fire, he broke the cakes of salt into small particles with an axe, and then 
passing the fragments through a coffee-mill, he was in possession of table salt 
whose quality would have satisfied a more exacting epicure than a hungry 
cavahTuian. 

Finlsliing our meal, which not only was our breakfast for that day, but a 
late dhmer as well, we resumed tlie pursuit, observing before doing so that 
. the Indians had also made a brief halt at the same point, and had built a fire 
and prepared their meal, as we had done after them. 

Crossing a liigh ridge, or divide, the trail led us down into a beautiful open 
valley. After following up the course of the latter several miles, the freshness 
of the trail indicated that the Indians had passed over it that same day. As 
it was not our purpose to overtake them, but to follow as closely as prudence 
would allow, I determined to go into camp until the following morning. 
Soon after resuming the pursuit next day rain began to fall, at first slowly, but 
later in the day in copious showers. I knew the Indians would not travel in 
the rain if tliey could avoid it, unless they knew they were pursued, and of this 
fact I had reason to believe they were still ignorant, as evidences found all 
along the trail indicated that they were moving very leisurely. 

To avoid jjlacing ourselves in too close proximity to them, T ordered a lialt 
about noon, and began preparation for camping for the night. Our wagons 
were still in rear. In the mean time the horses were all unsaddled and pick- 
eted out in the usual manner to graze. As was my usual custom upon halting 
for the night, I had directed the Osage scouts, instead of halting and unsad- 
dling, to advance in the direction we were to follow next day, and examine 
tlie country for a distance of a few miles. We had bare!}' comi)leted the un- 
saddling of our horses and disposed of them over the grazing ground, when I 
discovered the Osage scouts returning over the ridge in front of us as fast as 
tlieir ponies could carry them. Their stoi'y was soon told. Disliking to travel 
in the rain, the Indians whom we were pursuing had gone into camp also, and 
the Osage scouts had discovered them not more than a mlie from us, the ridge 
referred to preventing the Indians from seeing us or lieing seen by us. 

Quickly the words " Saddle up " flew from mouth to moutli, and in a mar- 
vellously brief time ofticers and men were in tlie saddle and, under the guid- 
ance of the Osage scouts, were moving stealthily to surprise the Indian camp. 
Passing ai'ound a little spur of the dividing ridge, there before us, at a distance 
of but a few hundred yards, stood the half-erected lodges of the Indians, 
wliile scattered here and there in the immediate vicinity Avere to be seen the 
Indian ponies and pack animals, grazing in apparent unconsciousness of the 
close proximity of an enemy. At a given signal the cavalry jnit spurs to their 
steeds, drew their revolvers, and in a few moments were in possession of the 
Indian camp, ponies and all — no, not all, for not a single Indian could be dis- 
covered. 

The troops were deployed at a gallop in all directions, but failed to find 
the trace of an Indian. Our capture wn.s apparently an empty one. How the 
occupants of the Indian camp had first discovered our presence and afterwards 
contrived to elude us was a mystery which even puzzled our Osage scouts. 
This mystei-y was afterwards explained, and in order to avoid detaining the 
reader, I will anticiipate sufficiently to state that in the course of subsequent 
events we came face to face, mider a flag of truce, Avith the late occujiants of the 
Indian camp, and learned from them that in this instance history had repro- 
duced itself. Rome was saved by the cackling of geese : the Indians owed 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 235 

their safety to the barking of clogs — not the barking of dogs belonging to their 
own camp, but to oui's. 

It seemed tliat during tlie haste and excitement attendant upon the discov- 
ery of tlie close proximity of the Indian camp to ours, two of our dogs, wlielh- 
er or not sharing in the bellicose humor of their masters, engaged in a qnar- 
I'el, the noise of which reached the quick ears of the Indians nearly one mile 
distant. Comprehending the situation at once, the Indians, realizing the dan- 
ger of delay, abandoned their camp and ponies and fled on foot, the better to 
effect concealment and elude pursuit. 

On the following day Ave resumed the march. There being no longer any 
trail for us to follow, we continued in the same direction, believing that the 
small party we had been pursuing had been directing their course toward the 
location of the main village, which was somewhere to the westward of us. 
Day after day we travelled in this direction, hoiiing to discover some sign or 
trail which might give us a clue to the whereabouts of the Cheyenne village. 
We had left the Indian Territory far behind us, and had advanced into Texas 
well toward the 102d meridian of longitude. Nearly all hope of discover- 
ing the Indians had vanished from the minds of the officers and men, when 
late in the afternoon the trail of a single lodge was discovered, leading in a. 
southwesterly direction. The trail was nearly if not quite one month old; 
hence it did not give great encouragement. To the surprise of most of the 
command, I changed the direction of our march at once, and put the Osages 
on the trail, having decided to follow it. 

Tliis may seem to the reader an ill-advised move, but the idea under which 
the decision was made was, that the owner of the lodge the trail of which we 
had discovered had probably been absent from the main village in search of 
game, as is customary for small parties of Indians at that season of the year. 
In the spring, however, the entire tribe assembles at one jioint and determines 
its plans and movements for the summer, whether relating to war or hunting. 
There was a chance — a slight one, it is true — that tlie trail of the single lodge 
just discovered might lead us to the rendezvous of the tribe. I deemed it 
worthy of our attention, and a pursuit of a few days at furthest would detei'- 
mine the matter. 

Following our faithful Osages, who experienced no difficulty in keeping 
the trail, we marched until near sundown, Avlien Ave ai'rived at the banks of 
a small stream upon Avhich, and near a cool, bubbling spring, Ave discovered 
the evidences of an Indian camp, Avhich must have not only included the 
lodge Avhose trail Ave had been folloAving, but about a dozen others. Here 
was a speedier confirmation of my hopes than I had anticipated. Here I de- 
termined to encamp until morning, and Avhile the caA'alry Avere unsaddling 
and pitching their tents, I asked Mo-nah-see-tah to examine the Indian camp 
minutely and to tell me how long a time had elapsed since its occupation by 
the Indians, how many constituted the party, and the character and probable 
indications of the latter. 

No detective could have set about the i^roposed examination Avith great- 
er thoroughness than did this Indian girl. The ashes of the camp fires Avei-e 
raked carefully aAvay and examined Avith all llie scrutiny of a chemical analy- 
sis. Bits of cloth or fragments of the skins of animals found Avithin the limits 
of the camp were lifted from their resting-places as tenderly as if they Avei*e 
articles of greatest value. Here and there Avere to be seen the bones of deer 
or antelope Avhich had been obtained by the Indians as food. These Mo-nah- 



236 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

see-tah examinetl carefully; then, shattering them between two stones, the 
condition of the marrow seemed a point of ixirticular importance to her as 
tending to determine the length of time the bones had been lying on the 
camp. After many minutes spent in this examination, during which I ac- 
companied her, a silent but far froiu disinterested spectator, she, apparently 
like a judge who had been carefully reviewing all the evidence, gave me her 
conclusions, communicating with me, through the medium of the sign lan- 
guage, with a grace characteristic of the Indian race, and which added to the 
interest of her statements. 

Briefly summed up her conclusions were as follows: twelve lodges had 
encamped at that point, probably constituting the band of some jjctty chief, 
the diflferent members of which, like the one whose trail we had that day dis- 
covered, had been separated for purposes of hunting, but had been called to- 
gether at that point preparatory to joining the main village. The lodges had 
left this camp not to exceed two weeks previous to that date, and in all proba- 
bility had moved to the rendezvous appointed for the main tribe, which would 
"without doubt be found by other small bands fi-om time to time, until the vil- 
lage would all be assembled at one point. Moving in this manner and at 
this early season of the year, when grass was scarce and no enemy known to 
be in the country, the Indians would make very short moves each day, pass- 
ing merely from one stream to another, not accomplishing in one day a great- 
er distance, probably, than the cavalry would in two or three hours. 

This intelligence, of course, was most gratifying, and for encouragement 
Was soon communicated to the individual members of the command. The 
trail was found to lead almost in a northerly direction, slightly inclining to 
the east. Perhaps no one of the command experienced such a feeling of hope 
and anxious suspense as the new discoveries gave rise to in the breast of 
young Brewster, who now more than ever believed, and with reason too, that 
he w'as soon to unravel or forever seal the fate of his lost sister, whose dis- 
covery and release had been the governing impulses of his life for months 
past. 

With renewed interest the cavahy resumed the pursuit at daylight the 
following morning. We had marched but a few miles before we reached a 
second camping ground, which had been occupied not only by those whose 
trail we were then following, but the number of fires showed that the strength 
of the Indians had been increased by about twenty-live lodges, thus verifying 
the cori'ectness of the surmises advanced by Mo-nah-see-tah. 

Continuing our progress, we had the satisfaction of seeing still further ac- 
cessions to the trail, until it was evident that at least one hundred lodges had 
united and passed in one body on the trail. As we marched in one day over 
tlie distance passed over in three by tlie Indians, and as the latter were mov- 
ing unsuspicious of the presence of an enemy in that section of the country, 
the trail was becoming freshened as we advanced. 

That night we encamped with every precaution calculated to conceal our 
presence from the Indians. No fires were permitted until after dark, and tlien 
but small ones, for fear the quick and watchful eye of the Indian might detect 
the ascending columns of smoke. As soon as the men had jjrepared their sup- 
pers the fires were put out. In the morning breakfast was pi'epared before 
daylight, and the fires at once smothered by heaping damp earth over them. 

Resuming the pursuit as soon as it was sufticiently light to follow the trail, 
we soon arrived at the camp vacated by the Indians the previous day, the 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 237 

extent of which showed that from three to four hundred lodges of Indians 
had occupied the ground. In many places the decayed embers of the lodge 
fires were still glowing; while the immense quantity of young cottonwood 
timber found cut and lying throughout tlie camp stripjjed of its young bark, 
showed that the Indian ponies were being mainly subsisted on cottonwood 
bark, the spring grass not being sufficiently advanced to answer the purjwse. 
Nothing indicated that the Indians had dejiarted in a precipitate manner, or 
that they had discovered our approach. It was reasonable, therefore, to sup- 
jiose that we would come in contact with them that day, if not actually reach 
the village. 

All our plans were made accordingly. The Osages, as usual, were kept 
in the advance, that their quick eyes might the sooner discover the Indians 
should they appear in our front. In order to avail myself of the earliest in- 
formation, I, with Colonel Cook, accompanied the Osages. Two of the latter 
kept in advance of all, and as they neared a ridge or commanding piece of 
ground they would cautiously approach the crest on foot and peer beyond, 
to ascertain whether an enemy was in sight before exposing our party to dis- 
covery. This proceeding, a customary one with Indians, did not excite un- 
usual attention upon the part of Colonel Cook and myself, until once we saw 
Hard Rope, the head warrior, who Avas in advance, slowly ascend a slight em- 
inence in our front, and, after casting one glimpse beyond, descend the hill and 
return to us as rapidly as his pony could carry him. We almost anticipated 
his report, so confident was everybody in the command that Ave were going 
to overtake the village. 

In a few words Hard Rope informed us that less than a mile beyond the hill 
from which he had obtained a view, there was in plain sight a large herd of 
Indian ponies grazing, being herded and driven by a few Indian boys. As 
3-et they had not seen us, but were liable to discover the column of troops 
further to the rear. To judge of the situation I dismounted, and, conducted 
by Hard Roi^e, advanced to the crest of the hill in front and looked beyond; 
there I saw in plain vicAV the herd of ponies, numbering perhaps two hun- 
dred, and being driven in the opposite direction toward what seemed the val- 
ley of a stream, as I could see the tops of the forest trees Avhich usually bor- 
der the water courses. 

The ponies and their protectors soon disappeared from view, but whether 
they had discovered us yet or not I was unable to determine. Sending a 
messenger back as rapidly as his horse could carry him, I directed the troops 
to push to the front, and to come prepared for action. I knew the village must 
be near at hand, probably in the vicinity of the trees seen in the distance. As 
the country was perfectly open, free from either ravines or timber capable of 
aftbrding concealment to Indians, I took my orderly with me and galloped in 
advance in the direction taken by the Indians, leavmg Colonel Cook to hasten 
and direct the troops as the latter should arrive. 

After advancing about half way to the blufi' overlooking the valley I saAV 
about half a dozen Indian heads peering over the crest, evidently watching 
my movements ; this number was soon increased to upwards of fifty. I was 
exti'emely anxious to satisfy myself as to the tribe whose village was evi- 
dently near at hand. There was but little doubt that it was the Cheyennes, 
for whom we had been searching. If this should prove true, the two white 
girls whose discovery and release from captivity had been one of the objects 
of the expedition, must be held prisoners iu the village which we were ap» 



238' MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

pvoaclnng; and to effect their release nnliarmed then became my stiulj-, fori 
remeuibered the fate of the white woman and child held captive by n band 
of this same tribe at the battle of the Washita. I knew that the first sliot 
fired on either side would be the signal fur the murder of the two wiiite jjirls. 
While knowing the Cheyennes to be deserving of castigation, and feeling as- 
sured that they were almost in our power, I did not dare to imperil llie lives 
of the two white captives by making an attack on the village, although never 
before or since have we seen so favorable an opportunity for administerincr 
well-merited punishment to one of the strongest and most troublesome of the 
hostile tribes. Desiring to establish a truce with the Indians before the trooi)s 
should arrive, I began making signals inviting a conference. This was done 
by simjjly riding in a circle, and occasionally advancing toward the Indians on 
the bluff in a zigzag manner. Immediately there appeared on the l)lufls about 
twenty mounted Indians; from this group three advanced toward me at a gal- 
lop, soon followed by the others of the party. I cast my eyes behind me to 
see if the troops were near, but the head of the column was still a mile or more 
in rear. My orderly was near me, and I could see Colonel Cook rapidly ap- 
proaching about midway between the column and my position. 

Directing the orderly to remain stationary, I advanced toward the Indians 
a few paces, and as soon as they were sufficiently near made signs to them to 
halt, and then for but one of their number to advance midway and meet me. 
This was assented to, and I advanced with my revolver in my left hand, Avhile 
my right hand was held aloft as a token that I was inclined to be friendly. 
The Indian met me as agreed upon, and in response to my offer exchanged 
friendly greetings, and shook hands. From him I learned that the village of 
tlie entire Cheyenne tribe was located on the streams in front of us, and that 
^ledicine Arrow, the head chief of the Cheyennes, was in the group of In- 
dians then in view from where we stood. Little Robe, with his band number- 
ing about forty lodges, was a short distance further down tlie stream. I asked 
the Indian to send for JNIedicine ArroAV, as I desired to talk with the head 
chief. Calling to one of his companions, Avho had halted within hailing dis- 
tance, the latter Avas directed to convey to Medicine Arrow my message, to 
do which he set off at a gallop. 

At this juncture I perceived that the Indians, to the number of twenty or 
more, had approached quite near, while some of the party seemed disposed to 
advance to where I was. To this I had decided objections, and so indicated to 
the Indian Avho was witli me. He complied Avith my Avishes, and directed his 
companions to remain Avhere they Avere. As a precaution of safety, I took 
good care to keep the person of the Indian betAveen me and liis friends. Med- 
icine ArroAV soon came galloping up accomijanied by a chief. 

While engaged in shaking hands Avith him and his companions, and ex- 
changing the usual salutation, " How," Avith the ncAV arrivals, I observed that 
the Indians Avho had been occupying a retired position liad joined the grou^i, 
and I found myself in the midst of about twenty chiefs and Avarriors. IMedicine 
Arrow exhibited tiie most earnest desire to learn from me tlie number of 
ti-oops following me. Whether this question Avas prompted by any contem- 
plated act of treachery, in case my folIoAvers Avere fcAV in number, or not, I do 
not knoAV. But if treachery Avas thought of, the idea Avas abandoned Avhen I 
informed liim that my folloAvers numbered fifteen hundred men, the advance 
guard being then in sight. Medicine ArroAV then informed me that his vilage 
was near by, and that the women and children Avould be greatly excited and 



UY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 239 

alarmed by the approach of so large a body of troops. To give assurance to 
them he urged me to accompany him to his village in advance of the troops, 
and l)y my presence satisfy his peojile that no attack upon them would be made. 
Tliis I consented to do. 

By tliis time Colonel Cook had again joined me, also Dr. Lij^pincott. Lcav- 
ino- tlie doctor witli directions for the troops, and taking Colonel Cook with me, 
I started with Medicine Arrow and a consitlerable party of his warriors to tlie 
village, Medicine Arrow urging us to put our horses to the gallop. The reader 
may regard this movement on my part as having been anything but prudent, 
and I will admit that viewed in tlie ordinary liglit it miglit seem to partake 
somewhat of a foolhardy errand. But I can assure them that no one could be 
more thoroughly convinced of the treachery and bloodthirsty disposition of the 
Indian than I am, nor would I ever trust life in their hands except it was to 
their interest to preserve that life; for no class of beings act so much from 
self-interest as the Indian, and on this occasion I knew, before accejiting the 
proposal of tlie chief to enter his village, that he and every member of his 
band felt it to be to their interest not only to protect me from harm, but treat 
me with every consideration, as the near approach of the troops and the for- 
midable number of the latter would deter the Indians from any act of hostili- 
ty, knowing as they did that in case of an outbreak of any kind it would be 
impossible for a great portion of the village, particularly the women and chil- 
dren, to escape. I considered all this before proceeding to the village. 

As we Avere turniifg our horses' heads in the direction of the village, I 
caught sight of a familiar face in the group of Indians about me ; it was that 
of Mah-wis-sa, the squaw whom T had sent as peace commissioner from our 
camp near Fort Sill, and who had failed to return. She recognized me at once, 
and laughed when I uttered the word " Mutah-ka,'' referring to the hunting- 
knife I had loaned her as she was about to depart on her errand of peace, A 
brisk gallop soon brought us to the village, which was located beneath the trees 
on the bank of a beautiful stream of clear running water. The name of the 
latter I found to be the Sweetwater; it is one of the tributaries of Red river, and 
is indicated on the map as crossing the 100th meridian not far south of the Ca- 
nadian river. 

Medicine Arrow hurried me to his lodge, which was located almost in the 
centre of the village, the latter being the most extensive I had ever seen. As 
soon as I had entered the lodge I was invited to a seat on one of the many 
buffalo robes spread on the ground about the inner circumference of the lodge. 
By Medicine Arrow's direction the village crier, in a loud tone of voice, began 
calling the chiefs together in council. No delay occuiTed in their assembling. 
One by one they approached and entered the lodge, until fifteen of the leading 
chiefs had taken their seats in the circle within the lodge in the order of their 
rank. I was assigned the post of honor, being seated on the right of Medi- 
cine Arrow, Avhile on my immediate right sat the medicine man of the tribe, 
an official scarcely second in influence to the head chief. 

The squaw of Medicine Arrow built a huge fire in the centre of the lodge. 
As soon as all the chiefs had assembled, the ceremonies, which were difterent 
from any T ever witnessed before or since, began. The chiefs sat in silence 
■while the medicine man drew forth from a capacious buckskin tobacco pouch* 
profusely ornamented with beads and porcupine quills, a large red clay pipe, 
with a stem about the size of an ordinary walking-stick. From another buck- 
skin pouch which Imng at his girdle he drew forth a handful of kinnikinic, and 



240 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

placed it on a cloth spread on the ground before him ; to tliis lie added, in va- 
rious amounts, dried leaves and herbs, with which he seemed well supplied. 
After thoroughly mixing these ingredients, he j^roceeded with solemn cere- 
mony to fill the pipe with the mixture, muttering at times certain incantations, 
by which no doubt it was intended to neutralize any power or proclivity for 
harm I may have been supposed to possess. 

To all of this I was a silent but far from disinterested spectator. My in- 
terest perceptibly increased when the medicine man, who was sitting close to 
me, extended his left hand and grasped my right, pressing it strongly against 
his body over the region of his heart, at the same time, and with complete de- 
voutness of manner, engaging in what seemed to me a petition or prayer to 
the Great Spirit; the other chiefs from time to time ejaculating, in the most ear- 
nest manner, their resj^onses, the latter being made simultaneously. To the 
Indians it was a most solemn occasion, and scarcely less impressive to me, 
who could only judge of what was transpiring by catching an occasional 
word, and by closely following their signs. 

After the conclusion of the address or prayer by the medicine man, the 
latter released my hand, which up to this time had been tightly grasped in his, 
and taking the long clay pipe in both hands, it likewise was apparently placed 
under an imaginary potent spell, by a ceremony almost as long as that which 
I have just described. This being ended, the medicine man, first pointing 
slowly with the stem of the pipe to each of the four points of the compass, 
turned to me, and without even so much as saying, " Smoke, sir.^ " i)laced the 
mouthpiece of the long stem in my mouth, still holding the bowl of the pipe 
in his hand. 

Again taking my right hand in his left, the ftxvor or protecting influence of 
the Great Spirit was again invoked in the most earnest and solemn manner, 
the other chiefs joining at regular intervals with their responses. Finally, re- 
leasing my hand, the medicine man lighted a match, and applying it to the 
pipe made signs to me to smoke. A desire to conform as far as inacticable to 
the wishes of the Indians, and a curiosity to study a new and interesting phase 
of the Indian character, prompted me to obey the direction of the medicine 
man, and I accordingly began pufiing away with as great a degree of noncha- 
lance as a man unaccustomed to smoking could well assume. Now being, as 
I have just stated, one of that class which does not number smoking among 
its accomplishments, I took the first few whiffs with a degree of confidence 
which I felt justified in assuming, as I imagined the smoking portion of the 
ceremony was to be the same as usually observed among Indians so devoted to 
the practice, in which each individual takes the pipe, enjoys half a dozen 
whiflfe, and passes it to his next neighbor on his left. That much I felt equal 
to; but when, after blowing away the first half dozen pulls of smoke from my 
face, tlie medicine man still retained his hold of the pipe, with an evident de- 
sire that I should continue the enjoyment of this Indian luxury, I proceeded 
more deliberately, although no such rule of restraint seemed to govern the vol- 
ubility of the medicine man, whose invocation and chants continued with una- 
bated vigor and i'ai)idity. 

"When the first minute had added to itself four more, and still I was expect- 
ed to make a miniature volcano of myself, minus the ashes, I began to 
gi'ow solicitous as to what might be the effect if I Avas subjected to this 
coui'se of treatment. I pictured to myself the commander of an important 
expedition seated in solemn council with a score and a half of dusky chief- 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 241 

tains, the pipe of peace being passed, and before it had left the hands of the 
aforesaid commander, he becoming deathly sick, owing to hick of familiar- 
ity witli the noxious weed or its substitutes. I imagined tlie sudden termi- 
nation of tiie council, the absurdity of tlie figure cut, and the contempt of tine 
chiefs for one who must, under the circumstances, appear so dcticient in 
manly accomplishments. These and a hundred similar ideas flaslied through 
my mind ns I kept pulling vigorously at the pipe, and wondering when this 
tiling would terminate. 

Fortunately for my peace of body as well as of mind, after a period 
which seemed to me equal to a quarter of an hour at least, I felt relieved 
by the medicine man taking the pipe from my mouth, and, after retilling it, 
handing it to the head chief, sitting on my left, who, drawing three or four 
long, silent whifls, passed it to his next neighbor on his left; and in 
similar manner it made the circle of the chiefs, until it finally returned to 
the medicine man, who, after taking a few final whiffs, laid it aside, much to 
my relief, as I feared the consequences of a repetition of my former effort. 

Romeo, the interpreter, having been mounted upon an indifferent animal, 
had fallen to the rear of the column during the march that day, and I was 
deprived of his services during my interview with the chief. Colonel Cook, 
during this time, was in an adjoining lodge, each moment naturally becom- 
ing more solicitous lest upon the arrival of the troops there should be a 
collision between the Indians and the excited A'olunteers. To the inquiries 
of the chiefs I explained the object of our march, without alluding to the 
two captive girls, the time not having arrived for discussing that subject. 
Having resolved to obtain the release of the captives, all other purposes were 
necessarily laid aside ; and as I knew that the captives could not be released 
should hostilities once occur between the troops and Indians, I became for 
the time being an ardent advocate of peace measures, and informed the 
chiefs that such was my purpose at the time. I also requested them to inform 
me where I would find the most suitable camping ground in the vicinity 
of the village, to which request Medicine Arrow replied that he would ac- 
company me in person and point out the desired ground. 

When this offer was made I accepted it as a kindness, but when the chief 
conducted me to a camp ground separated from the village, and from all 
view of the latter, I had reason to modify my opinion of his pretended 
kindness, particularly when coupled with his subsequent conduct. My 
command soon came up, and was conducted to the camp ground indicated 
by Medicine Arrow, the distance between the camp and the village not 
exceeding three-fourths of a mile. I was still uncertain as to whether there 
were any grounds to doubt that the two white girls were captives in Medicine 
Arrow's village. I anxiously awaited tiie arrival of Mo-nah-see-tah, who 
could and would solve this question. She came willi the main body of the 
troops, and I at once informed her whose village it was alongside of which we 
were located. 

To my inquii-y as to whether the two white girls were prisoners in Medicine 
Arrow's village, she promptly replied in the affirmative, and at the same 
time exhibited a desire to aid as far as possible in effecting their release. 
It was still early in the afternoon, and I did not deem it necessary, or even 
advisable, to proceed with undue haste in the negotiations by which I expect- 
ed to bring about the release of the two captives. Although our camp, as 
already explained, was cut off from a view of the village, yet I had provided 



242 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

against either surprise or stratogera, by posting some of my men on promi- 
nent points near bj', from which they obtained a full view of both our camp 
and the village, and thus rendei'ed it impossible for any important move- 
ment to take place in the latter without being seen, I felt contident that 
as soon as it was dark the entire village would probably steal away, and 
leave us in the lurch; but I proposed to make my demand for the surrender 
of the captives long before darkness should aid the Indians in eluding us. 

From fifty to one hundred chiefs, warriors, and young men were assem- 
bled at my headquarters, or about the camp fire built in front of headquar- 
ters. Apparently they were thei'e from motives of mere curiosity, but 
later developments proved tliey had another object in view. Finally Med- 
icine Arrow came to m)^ camp, accomj)anied by some of his head men, and 
after shaking hands with apparent cordiality, stated that some of his 5'oung 
men, desirous of manifesting their friendship for us, would visit our camij 
in a few minutes, and entertain us by a serenade. This idea was a novel 
one to me, and I awaited the arrival of the serenaders Avith no little curi- 
osity. 

Before their arrival, however, my lookouts reported unusual commotion 
and activity in the Indian village. The herd of the latter had been called in, 
and officers sent by me to investigate this matter confirmed the report, and 
added that everything indicated a contemi^lated flight on the ptirt of the In- 
dians. I began then to comprehend the ol>ject of the proposed serenade; 
it was to occupy our attention while the village could pack up and take 
flight. Pretending ignorance of what was transpiring in the village, I con- 
tinued to converse, through llomeo, with the chiefs, until the arrival of the 
Indian musicians. These, numbering about a dozen young, men, were 
■mounted on ponies which, like themselves, were ornamented in the high- 
-est degree, according to Indian fashion. The musicians were feathered 
iind painted in the most horrible as well as fantastic manner. Their in- 
■struments consisted of reeds, the sounds from which more nearly re- 
sembled those of the fife than any other, although there was a total lack of har- 
mony between the various jjieces. As soon as the musicians arrived they be- 
gan riding in a gallop in a small circle, of which circle our little group, 
composed of a few officers and the chiefs, composed the centre. The dis- 
play of horsemansliip was superb, and made amends for the discordant sounds 
given forth as music. 

Dnring all this time reports continued to come in, leaving no room to 
doubt that the entire village was preparing to decamp. To have opposed 
this movement by a display of force on the part of the troops would have 
onlj' precipitated a terrible conflict, for which I was not yet prepared, keeping 
in mind the resctie of the white girls. I did not propose, however, to relin- 
quisli the advantage we then lia.d i)y our close proximity to the vilhige, and 
permit the latter to place several miles between us. 

Knowing that the musicians would soon depart, and with them perhaps 
the chiefs and warriors then gi'ouped about my camp fire, 1 iletei'mined to 
seize the principal chiefs tlien present, permit the village to depart if necessa- 
r}', and hold the captured chiefs .as hostages for the suiTcnder of the white girls 
and the future good beh.avior of the tribe. This was a move requiring not 
only promptness but most delicate and careful handling, in order to avoid 
bloodslied. Quietly passing the word to a few of the oflicers who sat near 
me around the camp fire, I directed them to leave the group one by one. 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 243 

and, in such manner as not to attract the attention of the Indians, proceed 
to their companies and select quickly some of their most reliable men, in- 
structing the latter to assemble around and near my camp fire, well armed, 
as if merely attracted there by the Indian serenade. The men thus selected 
Avere to come singly, appear as unconcerned as possible, and bo in readiness 
to act promptlj', Init to do nothing without orders from me. 

In this manner about one hundred of my men were, in an inconceivably 
short space of time, mingled with the Indians, who, to the number of forty 
or more, sat or stood about my camp fire, laughing in their sleeves (iiad tliey 
not been minus these appendages), no doubt, at the clever dodge by wiiicii 
they were entertaining the white men while their village was hastening prep- 
arations for a speedy flight. Wiien the musicians had apparently exliausted 
their pi-ogramme, they took their departure, informing us tiiat later in the 
evening they would return and repeat the performance; they might have add- 
ed, "with an entire change of programme." 

After their departure the conversation continued with the chiefs nntil, by 
glancing about me, I saw that a sufficient number of my men had mingle<l 
with the Indians to answer my purpose. Of the forty or more Indians in the 
group, there were but few chiefs, the majority being young men or Iwys. My 
attention was devoted to the chiefs, and acting upon the principle that for the 
purposes desired half a dozen would be as valuable as half a hundred, I deter- 
mined to seize the principal chiefs then present, and permit the others to de- 
part. To do this without taking or losing life now became the problem. In- 
dicating in a quiet manner to some of my men who were nearest to me to be 
ready to prevent the escape of three or four of the Indians whom I pointed out, 
I then directed Romeo to command silence on the part of the Indians, and to 
inform them that I was about to communicate something of great import- 
ance to them. This was sufficient to attract their undivided attention. I then 
rose from my seat near the fire, and unbuckling my revolver from my Avaist 
asked the Indians to observe that I threw my weapons upon the ground, as an 
evidence that in what I was about to do I did not desire or propose to shed 
blood unless forced to do so. I then asked the chiefs to look about them and 
count the armed men whom I had posted among and around them, completely 
cutting off every avenue of escape. They had attempted, under pi'etence of a 
friendly visit to my camp, to deceive me, in order that their village might 
elude us, but their designs had been frustrated, and they were now in our 
power. I asked them to quietly submit to what was now inevitable, and 
promised them that if they and their people responded in the jDroper man- 
ner to the reasonable demands which I intended to make, all would be well, 
and they would be restored to their people. 

The reader must not imagine that this was listened to in tame silence by 
the thoroughly excited Indians, old and young. Upon the first intimation 
from me regarding the armed men, and before I could explain their purpose, 
every Indian Avho was dismounted sprang instantly to his feet, while those 

' wlio Avere mounted gathered the reins of their ponies ; all drew their revolvers 
or strung their bows, and for a fcAV moments it seemed as if nothing could 

I avert a collision, Avhich could only terniiinate in the annihilation of the Indi- 
ans, and an equal or perhaps greater loss on our part. A single shot fired, 
an indiscreet Avord uttered, would have been the signal to commence. My 
men behaved admirabh', taking their positions in such manner that each In- 
dian Avas confronted by at least two men. All this time the Indians Avere ges- 



244 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

ticnlating and talkin;^ in the most excited manner; the boys and younj^ men 
counselhng resistance, tlie older men and chiefs m'ging prudence until an un- 
derstanding could be had. 

The powers of Romeo as interpreter were employed without stint, in re- 
peating to the chiefs my urgent appeals to restrain their young men and 
avoid bloodshed. Even at this date I recall no moi'e exciting experience with 
Indians than the occasion of which I now write. Near me stood a tall, gray- 
haired chief, who, Avhile entreating his people to be discreet, kept his cocked 
revolver in his hand ready for use, should tlie emei'gency demand it. He was 
one of the few whom I had determined to hold. Near him stood another, a 
most powerful and forbidding-looking warrior, who Avas without firearms, but 
who was armed Avith a bow, already strung, and a quiver full of iron-pointed 
arrows. His coolness during this scene of danger and excitement was often tlie 
suirject of remark afterward between the oflBcers whose attention had been 
drawn to him. He stood ajiparently unaffected by the excitement about 
him, but not unmindful of the surrounding danger. Holding his bow in one 
hand, Avith the other he continued to draw from his quiver arrow after ar- 
roAV. Each one he aa^ouM examine as coolly as if he expected to engage in 
target practice. First he would cast his eye along the shaft of the arroAV, 
to see if it Avas perfectly straight and true. Then he Avould Avith thumb and 
finger gently feel the point and edge of the bai'bed head, returning to the 
quiver each one Avhose condition did not satisfy him. 

In this manner he continued until he had selected perhaps half a dozen 
arroAvs, Avith Avhich he seemed satisfied, and Avhich he retained in his hand, 
Avhile his quick ej-e did not permit a single incident about him to escape 
unnoticed. The noise of voices and the excitement increased until a move- 
ment began on tlie part of the Indians Avho Avere mounted, princijxilly the 
young men and boys. If tlie latter could be allowed to escape and the chiefs 
be retained, the desired object AA'ould be gained. Suddenly a rush Avas made. 
But for the fact that my men Avere ordered not to fire, the attempt of the 
Indians would not have been successful. I, as Avell as the other officers near 
me, called upon the men not to fire. The result Avas that all but four broke 
through the lines and made their escape. Tlie four detained, hoAvever, Avere 
those desired, being chiefs and AvaiTiors of prominence. 

Forming my men about them in such imimssable ranks that a glance was 
sufficient to show hoAV futile all further efforts to escape Avould prove, I then 
explained to the four captive Indians that I knew the design under Avhich 
they had visited oul*camp; that I also kncAV that in their village Avere held as 
captives two Avhite girls, Avhose release the troops Avei'e tliere to enforce, and 
to effect their release, as Avell as to compel the Cheyennes to abandon the Avar 
path and return to their reservation, I had seized the four Indians as hosta- 
ges. To prove my sincerity and earnest desire to arrange these matters ami- 
cably, and without resort to force, the Indians Avere told they might select 
one of their number, Avhom I would release and send as a messenger of peace 
to the village, the latter having left in indiscriminate flight as soon as the seiz- 
ure of the chiefs Avas made. 

It became a matter of gi*eat diflaculty, without the employment of forces 
to induce the four Indians to give up tlieir arms. I explained to them that 
they Avere prisoners, and it Avas one of our customs to disarm all men held as 
prisoners. Should they be released, hoAvever, I assured them their arms Avould 
be restored to them. No argument could prevail upon them to relinquish 



Mr LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 245 

their arms until I stated to them that a persistence in their refusal would 
compel nie to summon a sufficient number of men to take the arms by force; 
and it was even necessary to parade the men in front of them before tlie arms 
were finally given up. After a lengthy conference with each other, tliey an- 
nounced tiiat they had agreed upon one of their number who, in accordance 
with my promise, should be released and sent to the tribe as bearer of my de- 
mands, and of any messages they might desire to send to their people. 

I accoi'dingly caused bountiful presents of coffee and sugar to be "'iven 
the one so chosen, returned to him his pony and arms, and intrusted him witii 
verbal messages to his tribe, the substance of which was as follows: First, I 
demanded the unconditional surrender of the two white girls held captive in 
the village ; hitherto surrenders of wliite captives by Indians liad only been 
made on payment of heavy ransom. Second, I required the Cheyenne village, 
as an evidence of peaceable intentions and good faith on their part, to proceed 
at once to their reservation, and to locate near Camp Supply, reporting to the 
military commander at that station. Third, I sent a friendly message to Lit- 
tle Robe, inviting him to visit me with a view to tlie speedy settlement of the 
questions at issue, promising him unmolested transit coming and returnin'*" 
for him and as many of his people as chose to visit me. In case of failure to 
comply with the first two of my demands, hostilities would be continued, and 
my command would at once commence the pursuit of the village, which, con- 
sidering its size and the poor condition of the ponies at that earlj' season of the 
year, would l)e unaljle to escape from the cavalry. 

The Indian who was to go as bearer of these demands was also invited to 
return, assured that whether the response of his people should prove favora- 
ble or not, he should be granted a safe-conduct between the camp and the vil- 
lage. Inwardly congratulating himself, no doubt, upon the good fortune 
which gave him his liberty, the messenger of peace or war. as his tribe might 
elect, took his departure for his village. With him went the earnest wiishes 
for success of every inmate of the camp; but if this was the feeling of the com- 
mand generally, who can realize the intense interest and anxiety with which 
young Brewster now awaited the result of this effort to secure tlie freedom of 
his sister? And if the two forlorn, helpless girls knew of the presence of 
troops of their own race, what must have been the bitter despondency, the 
painful relinquishment of all hope as they saw tlie village and its occupants 
commencing a hasty flight, and no apparent effort upon the part of the troops 
to effect their release? 

What comfort it would have been to these ill-fated maiclens could they have 
known, before being hurried from the village, of the steps already taken to 
restore them to home and friends, or better still, if one of them could iiave 
known that almost within the sound of her voice, a brother was patiently 
but determinedly biding the time that should restore his sister to his amis. 

Relying upon the influence which I believed Little Robe would exert 
upon his people, and knowing the pressure we were able to bring to bear 
througli the three chiefs we held as hostages, I felt confident that sooner or 
later the Cheyennes would be forced to release the two white girls from tlieir 
captivity. Placing a strong guard over the three chiefs, and warning them not 
to attempt to escape if they valued their lives, I returned to my tent after 
having ordered every comfort possible to be provided for our prisoners con- 
sistent with their position. 

It was perhaps an hour or more after dark when an Indian voice was 



246 MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 

heard calling from one of the hillocks overlooking the camp. I proceeded to 
the guard fire near which the three chiefs Avere still seated engaged in conver- 
sation, and through Romeo inquired who the parties were whose voices we 
heArd, and tiieir object. They informed me that the voices were those of some 
of tlieir young men who were anxious to ascertain if tlieir friends the captives 
were still alive. Anxious that they should not only see that their friends were 
alive, but well treated, I desired to induce them to come within our lines ami 
visit tl»e captive chiefs. This was communicated to them tlirough the chiefs, 
Avho called to them in tones capable of being heard far beyond the point at 
which the young Indians were i>osted. But this did not satisfy their suspicious 
natures; they imagined some trap, and dpclined to accept the invitation. Ro- 
meo, the only one wlio could converse freely in the Indian tongue, might have 
been aide to persuade them to come in, but it was not safe for him to venture 
beyond the line of our pickets and trust himself in the power of the young In- 
dians. 

In this emergency I thought of Mo-nah-see-tah, in whom I had every con- 
fidence, and who I believed might be successful in inducing lier friends to come 
in. Sending for her, I soon acquainted her with my plan, to which she gave 
her ready assent, only expressing an appiehension that in passing our own 
chain of sentries in tlie darkness, they miglit mistake her for an enemy and 
fire upon her. Tliis difficulty I removed by offering to escort her safel}- through 
the line of pickets, and there await her return. Starting at once in the dark- 
ness, she clinging to my hand with the natural timidity of a girl, we proceeded 
to the picket station nearest to the jjoint from which the sound of voices had 
come, and after explaining to the sentiy our purpose, passed beyond as far as 
it was prudent to do, and then, bidding Mo-nah-see-tah to proceed on her mis- 
sion, I halted to. await her return. A few moments later I heard her voice in 
the darkness calling to her friends beyond; back came the quick response, and 
soon after I could distinguish the tones of the assembled group as Mo-nah-see- 
tah endeavored to convince them of their security in trusting to the in-omises 
made them. , 

Her arguments finally prevailed over their suspicions, and in the dim light 
of the stars I could see her returning, accompanied by four or five others. Not 
caring to tempt them by meeting them alone so far from support, I slowly re- 
tired until I was near the picket post. Here the Indians found me, and after 
the form of an introduction by Mo-nah see-tah and a general hand-shaking, 
the entire party proceeded without hesitation to the guard fire, where they 
joined their less fortunate chiefs. 

It may strike the reader with some surprise that Mo-nah-see-tah, herself 
a captive in our hands, should have voluntarily returned to us that nigiit after 
once being safely beyond our lines. But she onl}^ confirmed the confidence 
that was placed in her. During her imprisonment, if her stay in our camp 
without a guard may be termed imprisonment, she had become a great favor- 
ite with the entire command; not only this, l)ut she believed she w^ould in due 
time he given up to her own jjcople, and that until then she Avould receive 
kinil treatment at our hands and be exposed to less jiersonal danger and sufler- 
ing during hostilities than if with her village. 

The visit of the young men to our camp that night could not but have a 
beneficial influence upon the tribe, as they were enabled to see that the three 
chiefs were being treated with the utmost consideration, and were being held, 
as informed at first, simply as hostages, to enforce compliance with demands 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 247 

which even an Indian's ideas of riglit and wrong must pronounce just. After 
a lengthy conversation between the captives and their friends, the hitter took 
their departure, charged with messages to the village, both from the captive 
chiefs and me, similar to those transmitted through the chief who had been re- 
leased for that purpose. 

The following d;iy was passed without incident in awaiting the arrival of ti- 
dings from the village. Early in the afternoon tlie pickets reported a small 
bodj- of Indians in sight. Upon a nearer a2)proac]i the party a])p(!ared to con- 
sist of about fifty mounted Indians. They rode steadily in the direction of the 
camp, with no apparent wish to conceal their movements, thus indicating that 
the}' were on an errand of peace. When within lialf a mile or less of camp 
the entire party dismounted, and after picketing their jionies out to graze, ad- 
vanced on foot directlj' toward camp. So strange a proceeding, and at a time 
when the excitement regarding our relations with the Indians ran high, was 
sufficient to assemble nearly all the occupants of camp to watch the approach 
of this delegation of Indians. The latter were apparelled in their best and 
most iiighly colored clothes. As they came near, it was i^erceived that several 
paces in advance of the main group strode two cliiefs, evidently leaders of the 
party ; both advanced with uncovered heads. Suddenly I thought I detected 
a familiar face and form in the taller of the two chiefs in front, and on more 
careful scrutin}' I recognized my former friend and guest Little Robe, who had 
thus quickly responded to my invitation to cast aside all doubts and come and 
visit me, with a view to bringing about more frieudl}- relations between his 
people and the whites. 

As soon as I recognized him I advanced to meet him. He grasped my 
hand and embraced me with what seemed to me real cordialit}'. Wailing un- 
til the other members of his party came up, I shook hands with each individual, 
and then invited them to my tent. As tlie tent would not accommodate the 
entire party. Little Robe designated about a dozen of tlie most important, who 
entered, while the others remained outside. I soon found that in Little Robe I 
had a hearty coadjutor in tlie work before me. He admitted that the white 
girls were held as captives in tlie Cheyenne village, which was the first posi- 
tive evidence received of this fact. He also stated, what I had no reason to 
doubt, tliat he had at various times attempted to purchase them, with a view, if 
successful, of returning them to the nearest military post; but his efforts in this 
direction had always failed. He admitted the justice of my demands upon his 
people, and assured me that to bring about a satisfactory condition of aftairs he 
would use every exertion and employ all the influence at his command. It 
was to assure me of this desire on his part that he had hastened to visit me. 

Knowing that the surest and speediest Avay to establish a state of good 
feeling in an Indian is to provide liberally for the wants of his stomach, I or- 
dered a beef to be killed and distributed among the followers of Little Robe; 
with tliis also were distributed the usual supplies of coffee, sugar, flour, etc., so 
that the recipients were not only preparcnl to regard us as at least veiT kindly 
disposed, but I knew the efiect on the village, when the result of tlie vis^it. and 
the treatment extended to our guests was described, would matei-ially aid us in 
our negotiations with the tribe. 

Little Robe, while earnest in his desire to see the white girls returned to us, 
frankly admitted that iiis influence was not supreme, and there were those wlio 
would object to their release, at least Avithout compensation; and it miglit be 
that a satisfactory settlement of the question might be delayed for many days. 



248 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

After piirtaking of a bountiful repast. Little Robe and his party set out for the 
village, promising to send me word tlie following day as to his success. An- 
other day was passed in waiting, when tlie chief wiio had accompanied Little 
Robe tlie previous day again visited us, but brought no decisive or satisf:ictory 
reply. The substance of the reply was that the Cheyennes desired us to re- 
lease the three chiefs then held by us as hostages, after which they would be 
prepared to consider the question of tlie release of the two white girls. To 
this I sent back a reply that we would remain in the camj) we then occupied 
until the following day, when, if a favorable answer should not have been re- 
ceived, we would follow on their trail and encamp nearer to the village, the 
great distance then separating us, about twelve miles, being a hindrance in the 
way of transmitting messages promptly from one to the other. 

I knew that the village was in no condition for a rapid or extended flight, 
and could be overhauled by the cavalry whenever desired ; at the same time, to 
allow as much freedom in tlieir deliberations as possible, I had not been un- 
willing that a few miles should separate us. No reply Avas received ; conse- 
quently we packed up and marched down the Sweetwater, on the trail of the 
village, about ten miles, and went into camp. Here I received another visit 
from the chief who had previously acted as diplomatic courier between the 
camp and village, but the response of the Cheyennes was still unsatisfactory, 
and exhibited a disinclination on their part to make any decided promises re- 
specting the release of the captive white girls. They insisted as preliminary 
to such decision that the three chiefs held by us should be restored to liberty, 
after which we might discuss the question relating to the release of the girls. 

I will not weary the reader by describing the various subterfuges re- 
sorted to by the Indians, by whicli they strove to avoid or delay the sur- 
render of the white girls without first, as had been customary, receiving a 
ransom. Finally, after I had almost exiiausted the patience of the troops, 
particularly of the Kansas regiment which had been raised and organized 
mainly to effect the recapture of thewhite girls, or else avenge the outrage 
of which they had been the victims, I determined to force matters to an 
issue without further quibbling on the part of the Indians. 

I sent for a delegation of chiefs from the Cheyenne village to receive my 
ultimatum. They came, and upon their arrival I assembled them in my tent, 
the three captured chiefs being also permitted to be present, as the confer- 
ence, as will be seen, was to be of deep interest to them. After recounting to 
the chiefs the incidents of our pursuit of the village, their surprise at being 
overtaken, the stratagems by which they hoped to elude us, the sU^ps we had 
already taken to obtain the release of the white girls, and the delays inter- 
posed by the Indians, I stated that I had but one other message to send to the 
village; and upon the chiefs of tiie latter would rest the responsibility of peace 
or war. Further delay would not be submitted to on our part. We knew 
they had two of our race captives in the village, and we Avere there to de- 
mand and enforce the demand for their release, cost what it might. I then 
informed them that if by sunset the following day the two white girls were 
not restored to our hands unharmed, the lives of the three chiefs would be 
forfeited, and the troops would resume active hostilities. At the same time I 
called attention to the fact that in the famished condition of their ponies they 
could not expect to escape the pursuit of the cavalry. Every argument which 
might have Aveight in influencing a favorable decision was stated to them. The 
conference then broke up, and the three chiefs were remanded to the custody 



MY LIFE OX THE PLAINS. 249 

of the guard. The delegation from the village, after a brief interview with 
their captive comrades, took a hasty departure, and set out up(jn tlieir return to 
tlie village, deeply impressed, apparently, Avith the iui2)()rtance of promptness 
in communicating to the chiefs at the village the decision which had been ar- 
rived at regarding the captives. 

The terms given to the Indians soon became known to every individual in 
the command, and naturally excited the deepest interest. All hoped for a 
favorable issue, but no one regarded the events tlien transpiring with the 
intense interest and anxiety felt by young Brewster, avIio now saw that his 
long-cherished hope to recover his sister was either about to be realized, or 
forever sealed in disappointment. 

The captive chiefs did not pretend to conceal their solicitude as to the part 
they Avere involuntarily made to play in the events then transpiring. I did 
not expect prompt action on the part of the chiefs in the village. I knew 
they would practise eveiy delay conceivable before complying with our de- 
mands ; but when the question was forced upon them as to whether they pre- 
ferred to deliver up the white girls to us or to force by their refusal the exe- 
cution of tlie three chiefs, their decision would be in favor of their people. 

Three o'clock arrived, and no tidings from the village. By this time the of- 
ficers and men of the command had assembled near headquarters, and upon 
the small eminences near hj, eagerly watching the horizon in the direction 
of the village, to catch the first glimpse of the messengers who must soon ai*- 
I'ive to avert the execution of the three chiefs. Even the three chiefs became 
despondent as the sun slowly but surely approached the horizon, and no tid- 
ings from the village reached them. Finally Romeo came to me and stated 
that the three chiefs desired to see me. I repaired to their place of confine- 
ment at once, and was asked by the younger of the three if it was my firm 
purpose to make good my words in the event of the failure of their people 
to release the white girls. I replied in the affirmative. The chief then at- 
tempted a little Indian diplomacy, by assuring me that in the village and 
among his own people he was a man of great consequence, and could exert 
a wide influence ; for this reason he requested me to release him, and he would 
hasten to the village, obtain the release of the two girls, and return in time to 
save his two companions. 

When this proposition was first made I attributed it to fear that the chiefs in 
the village might decline to restore the two girls to liberty, and the lives of 
the three chiefs would be sacrificed thereby; but subsequent events proved 
that while this consideration may have had its influence, the principal motive 
Avhich prompted the proposition was a desire to escape from our hands before 
the white girls should be restored to us, as the chief referred to had been a 
party to their capture and to the subsequent ill treatment they had received. 

I replied to his proposal, that if he was of such importance in his tribe as 
he claimed to be, he was the most proper person for me to retain possession 
of, as his people would be more likely to accede to my demands to save his life 
than that of a person of less consequence. 

The sun was perhaps an hour high when the dim outlines of about twenty 
mounted figures were discerned against the horizon, on a high hill, two or 
three miles to the west of us. Instantly all eyes were directed to the partj', 
but the distance was too great to enable any of us to clearly define either 
the number or character of the group. The eyes of the three chiefs ijcrcepti- 
bly brightened with hope. Securing my field glass, I carefully scanned the 



250 MY LIFE OX THE TLAIXS. 

jjai-ty on the hill. Every one about me waited in anxious suspense the re- 
sult of niy examination. Graduallj% mitler the magnifying powers of tlie 
glass, I was able to make out tlie figures in sight. I could only determine 
at first tiiat the group was, as might be imagined, comj^osed of Indians, and 
began counting them audibly, when I discovered two figures mounted ujion 
the same pony. 

As soon as this was announced several of my companions at once ex- 
claimed, "Can they be the girls?" I could detect nothing, liowever, in their 
appearance warranting such a conclusion, their dress apparently being the 
same as that of the other individuals of the group. While endeavoring to make 
out something more definite in regard to tlie party, I saw the two figures de- 
scend from the ponj% and, leaving the rest of the group, advance toward us on 
foot. All this I reported to the anxious bystanders, who became now more 
than ever convinced that the two figures approaching must be the two girls. I 
began describing the appearance of the two as well as I could, with the aid of 
the glass : " One seems to have a short, heavy figure ; the other is considerably 
taller and more slender." Young Brewster, who stood at my side, immedi- 
ately responded, "The last one must be my sister ; she is quite tall. Let me go 
and meet them; this anxiety is more than I can endure." But this I declined, 
fearing that should one of the two now approaching us prove to be his sister, 
seeing her in the forlorn condition in which she must be might provoke young 
Brewster be^-ond control, and induce him to attempt to ol)tain revenge in a 
manner not governe<i by either prudence or propriety. So I reluctantly de- 
clined to permit him to advance beyond our lines. But by this time the two 
figures had approached near enough to ena1)le me clearly to determine that they 
were really of white complexion, and undoubtedlj' the two girls whose release 
we were so impatiently waiting for. 

As the Kansas volunteers had left their homes and various occupations in 
civil life to accomplish, among other results, the release of the two girls who 
had been abducted from the frontier of their State, I deemed it appropriate 
that that regiment should be the first to welcome the two released captives to 
friends and freedom. Accordingly the three senior officers of the regiment 
were designated to proceed beyond our lines and conduct the two girls to camp 
— a duty whose performance carried its pleasure with it. The three ofllcers 
advanced to meet the two figures (I use the term figures, as the dress was of 
that nondescript pattern which renders this term most api)i"oi)riate). The}' had 
passed one fourtii of the distance, perhaps, when young Brewster, whom I had 
detained at my side with difficult}', bounded away, and the next moment was 
running at full speed to greet his long-lost sister. Dashing past the three of- 
ficers, he clasped in his arms the taller of the two girls. This told us all we 
had hoped for. We awaited their approach, and as they drew near to the little 
brook which flowed just beyond the jjoint occu2)ied l)y the gi'onp of officers 
around me, I stepped forward, and extending my hands to tlie two girls, bade 
them a hearty welcome to liberty. In a moment officers and men were strug- 
gling about them upon all sides, eager to take them by the hand, and testify^ 
the great joy felt at their deliverance from a life of captivity. 

Men whom I have seen face death Avithout quailing found their eyes filled 
with tears, imable to restrain the deep emotion produced by this joyful event. 
The appearance of the two girls was suflicient to excite our deepest sympathy. 
Miss White, the younger of the two, though not beautiful, possessed a most in- 
teresting face. Her companion would have been pronounced beautiful by the 



■' I.IY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 251 

most critical judge, being of such :i type us one nii<ilit iiimgiuo M:uul Miillcv to 
be. 

Their joj' .it their deliverance, however, could not hide the evidences of 
privation and suftering to which they had been subjected by their cruel c:ii> 
tors. Tliey were clotlied in dresses made from flour sacks, the brand of the 
mills being plainly seen on each dress; showing that the Indians who had held 
them in captivity had obtained their provisions from the Government at some 
agency. The entire dress of the two girls was as nearly like the Indian mode 
as possible ; both wore leggings and moccasins ; both wore their hair in two 
long braids, and as if to propitiate us, the Indians, before releasing them, had 
added to the wardrobe of the two girls various rude ornaments, such as are 
Avorn b}- squaws. About their wrists they wore coils of brass Avire ; on their fin- 
gers had been placed numerous rings, and about their necks strings of variously 
colored beads. Almost the first remark I heard 3'oung Brewster make after 
the arrival of the two girls was, " Sister, do take those hateful things off." 

Foi'tunately they were not the only white women in camp. I had a white 
woman as cook, and to enable the two girls to improve their wardrobe a little 
before relating to us the history of their capture and captivity, they Avere con- 
ducted to the tent of the white woman referred to, from whose limited -ward- 
robe they were able to obtain enough to replace the dresses made of flour 
sacks, and in a few minutes reappeared presenting a much more civilized ap- 
pearance than when they first entered camp. 

In a jirevious chapter I have given the main incidents of their capture. 
The story of their captivity Avas that of hundreds of other Avomen and girls 
Avhose husbands, fathers, or brothers take tlieir lives in their hands and seek 
homes on the frontier. There Avas much in their story not appropriate for 
these pages. They described hoAV great their joy Avas at encountering each 
other for the first time as prisoners in the hands of the Indians. They had 
been traded repeatedly from the hands of one chief to those of another, the 
last transfer having been efiected only tAvo Aveeks jjrior to their release. Soon 
after their first meeting, it Avas their good fortune, compai'atively, to become 
the property of one chief. This threw them into each other's society, and 
tended to lighten the horrors of tlieir captivity. While throAvn together in this 
manner, they planned an escape. Their plan, it seems, was more the result of 
despei'ation than of careful deliberation, as they had no idea as to Avhat state or 
territory the village Avas then in, nor in Avhat direction to travel should they 
escape from the village. Indeed, one of their first questions on entei-ing our 
lines Avas to ask in Avhat part of the country Ave Avere. 

Determining at all hazards, however, to flee from their captors at the first 
opportunity, and trust to chance to lead them to the settlements or to some 
military post, they escaped from the village one night and travelled for several 
hours in a northerly direction. During this attempt to regain their liberty, they 
reached a Avagon road, over Avhich Avagons and horses had passed recently, 
and Avere congi-atulating themselves upon the success of their effort, Avhen a 
bullet Avhistled past them, and in close proximity to them. Casting an anx- 
ious look, they saAV, to their horror and disappointment, their late captor or 
owner riding at full speed in pursuit. Escape Avas impossible. Nothing re- 
mained but toaAvait the arrival of the chief, Avho came up excited Avith sjxv- 
age rage at the idea of their attempt to escape him. Marching back on foot 
to the village, they became the recipients of renewed insults and taunts. Nor 
did it end here. The squaAvs of the village, always jealous of Avhite Avomen 



252 MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. ' 

when captives, took this opportunity to treat them with the gi-eatest severity 
for their attempt to regain tlieir liberty. Tiie old chief, also, ileciiled upon 
a change of programme. lie had invested several ponies when he became 
tiie possessor of tlie two girls, and he did not jiropose to risk the loss of this 
property. So he determined to separate the two girls by selling one of tiiem; 
and the two friends in misfortune were torn from each other. Miss White, in 
consideration of three ponies given in exchange, passed into the hands of 
another chief, whose lodge was generally located some miles from tluit of 
her late master. 

The story of the two girls, containing accounts of wrongs and ill treat- 
ment sufficient to have ended the existence of less determined persons, is 
too long to be given here. Besides indignities and insults far more terrible 
than death itself, the physical suffering to which the two girls were sub- 
jected was too great almost to be believed. They were required to trans- 
port huge burdens on their backs, large enough to have made a load for a i:)east 
of burden. They were limited to barely enough food to sustain life; some- 
times a small morsel of mule meat, not more than an inch square, was their 
allowance of food for twenty-four hours. The squaws beat them unmercifully 
with clubs whenever the men were not present. Upon one occasion one of 
the girls was felled to the ground by a blow from a clul) in the hands of one 
of the squaws. Tlieir joy tlierefore at regaining their freedom after a cap- 
tivity of nearly a year can be better imagined than described; while tliat of the 
brotlier who had struggled so long and determinedly to regain his sister could 
not be expressed in words. 

After the momentary excitement consequent upon the safe arrival of the 
girls in camji had subsided, officers, particularly of the Kansas volunteers, 
came to me with the remark tliat when we first overtook the Cheyenne vil- 
lage and I failed to order an attack when all the chances were in our fivor, 
they mentally condemned my decision as a mistake; but Avith the results ac- 
complished afterwards they found ample reason to amend their first judgment, 
and frankly and cordially admit that the release of the two captives was far 
more gratifying than any victory over the Indians could have been if pur- 
chased by the sacrifice of their lives. 

Witli this happy termination of this much of our negotiations with the In- 
dians, I determined to march in the morning for Camp Suppl}', Indian Ter- 
ritory, satisfied that witli the three cliiefs in our possession, and tlie squaws and 
children captured at the Washita still held as prisoners at Fort Hays, Kansas, 
we could compel tlie Cheyennes to abandon the war path and return to their 
reservation. The three chiefs begged to be released, upon the ground that 
their people had delivered up the two girls; but tiiis I told them was but one 
of the two conditions imposed; the other required the tribe to return to their 
reservation, and until this was done they need not hope for freedom ; but in 
the mean wliile I assured tliem of kind treatment at our hands. 

Before dark a delegation of chiefs from the village visited camp to like- 
wise urge the release of the three chiefs. My reply to them was the same as 
that I had given to the captives. I assured them, however, that upon com- 
plying witli their treaty obligations, and returning to their reservation, the 
three chiefs would be restored to their people, and we would return to them 
also the women and children captured at the Washita. Seeing that no modi- 
fication of these terms could be obtained, they finally promised to accede to 
them, saying that their ponies, as I knew to be the fact, were in no condition 



MY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 268 

to travel, but as soon as i^racticable tliey would surely proceed with their entire 
village to Camp Supply, and abandon the war path forever; a pi'omise which, 
as a tribe, they have adhered to, from that day to this, witli strict faitli, so far 
as my knowledge extends. 

I had not lieard from General Sheridan since we separated at Fort Sill; he 
to set out for Camp Supply, and I Avith my command to begin my present 
movement. But when near Camp Supjily a courier met me with despatches 
from General Sheridan — who had been meanwhile summoned to Wjishington 
— informing me in regard to the arrangements made for my command upon 
its arrival at Camp Supply. The Kansas volunteers were to marcli to Fort 
Hays, and there be mustered out of the service. The Seventh Cavalry was 
also to proceed to the same point, and there await farther orders, as the Gen- 
eral in his note stated that he had concluded to draw in the Seventh, and end 
the campaign. 

In reply to my letter, written subsequently from Camp Supply, giving him 
a detailed account of our operations, including the release of the two white 
girls, I received a letter of warm encouragement from the General, written 
from Chicago, where he had just established his present headquarters. In that 
letter he wrote : " I am very mucli rejoiced at the success of your expedition, 
and feel proud of our Avinter's operations and of the oflScers and men who liave 
borne its privations and hardships so manfully. . . . Give my kind re- 
gards to the officers, and say how happy I should be to see them should any 
of them come this way on leave." These Avords of hearty sympathy and ap- 
proval, from one who had not only shared but appreciated at their true Avorth 
our " privations and hardships," Avere far more ciieering and valued than the 
empty lionor contained in half a dozen brevets bestoAved grudgingly, and re- 
called in a moment of pique. 

Making a brief halt at Camp Supply to rest our animals and replenish our 
stores, my command continued its march to Fort Hays, ci'ossing the Arkansas 
river at Fort Dodge, Kansas. Upon our arrival at Fort Hay^ Ave Avere met by 
the husband of young BrcAvster's sister, Avho had learned of her restoration to 
liberty from the published despatches Avhich had preceded us to Fort Ilays. 
He was still lame from the effects of the bullet Avound received at the time the 
Indians carried off his bride, whom he had given up as dead or lost to him 
forever. The joy of their meeting Avent far to smooth over their late sorrow. 
They could not find language to express their gi'atitude to the troops for their 
efforts in restoring them to each other. As the Indians had robbed them of 
everything at the time of tlie attack, a collection Avas taken up among the 
troops for their benefit, Avhich resulted in the accumulation of several hundred 
dollars, to be divided between the two captives. The time came for our guests 
to leave us, and rejoin their people, or such of them as had survived the attack 
of the Indians. Good-bys Avere spoken, and the two girls, so lately victims 
of the most heartless and cruel captivity, departed, with husband, brother, and 
friends, for their frontier homes, bearing with them the warm sympathies and 
cordial good Avishes of every soldier in the command. 

Mo-nah-see-tah was anxious to visit her friends wlio were now captives at 
Fort Hays, and who were kept in a large stockade at the post, our camp 
being placed some two or three miles below the post. Accordingly slie re- 
paired to the stockade, and spent several hours, relating, no doubt, tlie story 
of our march since they had separated from each other. She preferred to 
live in tlie cavalry camp, where she was allowed to roam Avithout the re- 



254 I*IY LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

straint of a guanl; bat it was deemed advisable soon after to place lior with 
tlie other women and children inside the stockade. The three captive cliiefs 
were also transferred to tlie same place for safe keeping. Here a most un- 
fortunate misunderstanding arose. The chiefs had been confined inside the 
same enclosiu'e with the women and children, but in separate tents. The com- 
manding officer of the post decided to remove them to rooms in the guard- 
liouse, adjoining the stockade. This was decided upon as a measure of se- 

(^ curity. Tliere was no interpreter kept at the post; consequentlj^ there was 

no way of communicating witii the Indians except by rude signs, and even 
this method was but indifl'erently understood by the infantry soldiers constitu- 
ting the garrison of the post. From accounts given me by the Indians after- 
wards, it seems the men of the guard, in the execution of the order to transfer 
the three chiefs, entered the stockade muskets in hand, and upon tlie failure 
of tile cliiefs to comprehend what was required of them, the soldiers attenuat- 
ed to pusli the chiefs from tiie stockade by force, pointing witli their bayo- 
nets to the outside. The chiefs, failing to understand a word spoken to them, 
and with the natui'al suspicion of their race, imagined that they were being 
led or driven forth to execution, and determined to die there and then. An 
attack was at once made upon the guard with knives Avliich they cjirried be- 
neath tlieir l)lankets. The sergeant of the guard received a stab in tlie 
back wliicli almost proved mortal. This was the signal for a determined 
fight between the three chiefs and the guard, tlie latter having the decided 
advantage in numbers and weapons. The result could not be long doubtful. 
One of tlie chiefs. Big Head, the young man who had proposed to proceed to 
the village and obtain the release of tlie two wliite girls, fell dead at the first fire 
of the guard. The oldest of the three, Dull Knife, received a bayonet wound 
tlirough tlie body which proved fatal in a few days. The tliird. Fat Bear, was 
felled by a blt)w from the butt of a musket, but did not receive serious injury. 
Knowing that I could converse witli the Indians, and from my acquaint- 
ance with them might be able to quiet the excitement among the remaining 
prisoners, the commanding officer of the post sent to me for assistance. 
Upon repairing to the stockade, I found the women and children in a state 
of great excitement and huddled together inside their tents. Entering the 
stockade, I soon learned their version of the afi'air, which did not vary ma- 
terially from that just given. Mo-nah-see-tah pointed to a bullet-hole in her 
blanket, the effect of a stray shot fired during the melee. The affair was a 
source of deep regret to all. 

^ ^ The Cheyennes, in accordance Avith their promise made to me, returned to 

tlieir reservation; and having thus far complied with the terms of the agree- 
ment then made, it devolved upon the military authorities to return to them 
their people whom Ave had, up to that time and since the battle of the Washita, 
retained as prisoners of war. An order was accordingly issued releasing the 
only surviving chief. Fat Bear, and the women and children then held at Fort 
Hays. Wagons and subsistence were furnished them from Fort Hays to Camp 
Sui»ply, and a squadron of the Seventh Cavalry escorted tliem to the latter 
' point, where they were received by their oAvn people. Monah-see-tah. al- 
though gladdened h\ the prospect if being restored to her people, exhibited 
marked feelings of regret Avhen a time for her departure tirrived. She had 
grown quite accustomed to the easy, idle life she had led among the troops, 
as compared witli that mere existence of toil and drudgery to Avhich all tribes 
of Indians consign their squaws. 



MY LIFE ON TPIE PLAINS. 255 

Romeo, who had accompanied us throughout the events described in these 
pages as interpreter, toolc unto luniself a wife from the Cliejenne village, and 
thereafter became a sort of trader Iietween the Avhites and Indians. I believe 
he is still acting in that capacit}'. Lone Wolf is still the leading chief of the 
Kiowas; but if public and private advices are to be relied upon, he has acted 
"vvith extremely bad faith toward the Government, and even as these lines are 
being penned is reported as absent from his reservation, leading a war party 
of his people iu committing depredations upon the people of the Texas fron- 
tier. Satan ta, since his release from the Texas State jn-ison, lias led a com- 
parative!}' quiet and uneventful life. How much of this is due to his incar- 
ceration in i)rison for a short term of years can only be inferred. Little Ra- 
ven continues to exercise the powers of head chief of the Arapahoes, although 
he is too old and infirm to exercise active command. INIy former friend and 
companion, Yellow Bear, is the second chief in rank to Little Raven, and 
probably will succeed to the dignities of the latter ere many years have rolled 
around. Little Robe, of the Cheyennes, whose acts and words were alwnys 
on the side of peace, died some three years ago. 

A few words iu regard to one other character with whom the reader of 
these sketches has been made acquainted, and I shall have disposed of the 
principal personages, not included in the military, Avhom the reader has en- 
countered from time to time. California Joe accompanied my command to 
Fort Ilaj's, Kansas, on the Kansas Pacific railroad, when the troops were par- 
tially disbanded and sent to diflerent stations. California Joe had never seen 
a railroad nor a locomotive, and here determined to improve his first ojipor- 
tunity in these respects, and to take a trip in the cars to Leavenworth, dis- 
tant about four hundred miles. A few days afterward fin officer of niy com- 
mand, happening to be called to Leavenworth, tliought he recognized a fa- 
miliar form and face in front of the leading hotel of the city. A closer scru- 
tiny sliowed that the parly recognized was none other than California Joe. 
But how changed! Under the manipulations of the barber, and through tlie 
aid of the proprietor of a gentleman's furnishing store, the long, curly locks 
and beard of California Joe, both of which had avoided contact with comb, 
brush, or razor for many years, had undergone a complete metamorphosis. 
His hair and beard were neatly trimmed and combed, while his figure, a 
very commanding one, had discarded the rough suit of the frontiersman, and 
was now adorned by the latest eflbrts of fashion. If the reader imagines, 
however, that these changes were in keeping with the taste of California Joe, 
the impression is wholly incorrect. He had eflfected them simply for a sen- 
sation. The following day he took the cars for the West, satisfied with the 
faint glimpse of civilization he had had. 

As I soon after left that portion of the plams in which these scenes are 
laid, I saw no more of California Joe; but I often wondered what had become 
of my loquacious friend, whose droll sayings and quaint remarks had often 
served to relieve the tedium of the marcli or to enliven the group about the 
camp-fire. I had begun, after a few years had passed without trace or tidings 
from Joe, to fear that he had perhaps gone to that happy hunting ground to 
whicli he no doubt had sent more than one dusky enemy, when a few Aveeks 
ago I was most agreeably surprised to receive indubitable evidence that Cali- 
fornia Joe was still in the land of the living, but exactly Avhere I could not 
determine, as his letter was simply dated " Sierre Nevade Mountains, Califor- 
nia." Now as this range of mountains extends through the entire length and 



256 Mr LIFE ON THE PLAINS. 

embnices a considerable portion of the State of California, Joe's address 
could not be definitely determined. But as his letter is so characteristic of 
the man, I here introduce it as the valedictory of California Joe : 

SiERRE Nevade Mountains, Calefounia, March IG, 1874. 
Dear General after my respets to you and Lady i thought that i tell you that i am still on top of 
land yit i hev been in the rockey mountain the most of the time sencc last I seen you but i got on 
the railroad and started west and the first tiling I knew I landed in san Francisco so I could not 
go any further except goin by water and salt water at that so i turned back and headed for the 
mountains once more resolved never to go railroading no more i drifted up with the tide to sacra- 
mento city and i landed my boat so i tools up through town they say thar is 20 thousand people 
living thar but it looks to me like to be lOJ thousand counting cliinaman and all i cant describe my 
wolflsh feeling but i think that i look just like i did when we was chasing Buffalo on the cimarone 
80 I struck up through town and i come to a large fine building crowded with jieople so bulged 
in to see what was going oa and when i got in to the counsd house i took a look aroimd at the 
crowd and i seen the most of them had bald heads so i thought to myself 1 struck it now that they 
are indian peace commissioners so i look to see if i would know any of them but not oneeo after 
while tlie smartcss lookin one got up and said gentlemen i introduce a bill to hare speckle moi'.ntain 
ti'out and fish eggs imported to California to be put in the american Bear and yuba rivers— those 
rivers is so muddi' that a tadpole could not live in them caused by mining— did any body ever hear 
of speckle trout living in muddy water and the next thing was the game law and that was very 
near as bad as the Fish for they aint no game in the country as big as mawking bird i heard some 
fellow behind me ask how long is the legislaturs been in session then i dropt on myself it wuzent 
Indian commissioners after all so i slid out took across to Chinatown and they smelt like a kiowa \ 
camp in August with plenty buffalo meat around— it was gettin late so no place to go not got a red 
cent so i happen to think of an old friend back of town that i knowed 25 years ago so i lit out and 
sure enough he was thar just as i left him 25 years ago baching [leading the life of bachelor— G. A. ; 
C] so i got a few seads i going to plant in a f*i\Y days give my respects to the 7th calvery and ex- 
cept the same yoursly 

Califoenia Joe. 

The events described in this chapter terminated my service in the field on i 
what is known as the southern and middle plains, embracinfr all that portion 
of the plains south of the Platte river. From and after the Washita campaign 
the frontiers of Kansas have enjoyed comparative peace and immunity from 
Indian depredations. No general Indian war has prevailed in that part of the 
country, nor is it probable that anything more serious in this way than occa- 
sional acts of horse-stealing will occur hereafter. Many of my friends have ex- 
pressed surprise that I have not included in " Life on the Plains" some of the 
hunting scenes and adventures which have formed a part of my experience; 
but I feared the introduction of this new feature, although probably the pleas- 
antest and in many respects most interesting of my recollections of border life, 
might prolong the series of articles far beyond the length originally assigned to 
them. I hope, however, at an early day to relate some of my experiences with 
the laro-e game so abundant on the plains, and in this way fill up a blank in these 
articles which my friends who are lovers of sport have not failed to observe. 

As I pen these lines, I am in the midst of scenes of bustle and busy prepa- 
ration attendant upon the organization and equipment of a large party for an 
important exploring expedition, on which I shall start before these pages reach 
the publishers' hands. During my absence I expect to visit a region of coun- 
try as yet unseen by human eyes, except those of the Indian— a country de- 
scribed by the latter as abounding in game of .all varieties, rich in scientific 
interest, and of surpassing beauty in natural scenery. Bidding adieu to civili- 
zation for the next few months, I also now take leave of my readers, who I 
trust, in accompanying me through my retrospect, have been enabled to gain 
a true insight into a cavalryman's " Life on the Plains." 

The End. 



/